February 14

Americans Love their Public Libraries

“What if librarians were fully engaged in their communities (yes, I know many are) and America Loves Librarieswell-networked with their municipal counterparts, stakeholders, elected officials, trustees, and patrons (yes, even patrons). Wouldn’t forging such positive professional relationships help boost the perception and attitudes about the library
and the librarian?”–Read more from my recent post at Public Libraries Online. Happy Valentine’s!

March 21

Connect, Create, Innovate: Libraries as Creative Spaces

Providence Community LibraryAnother innovative way communities use library space. Here you see artist Jennifer Iwasyk painting a portrait at Fox Point Community Library. And in Glendale, AZ, my library just opened up it’s artsy spot called The Creative Space.  Libraries are innovating and evolving to serve the needs of their changing communities. Want more examples of what’s happening in the libraries then scroll through this fabulous presentation, US Public Libraries in the Digital Age, by Kathleen Imhoff of OCLC, and look at all the exciting ways libraries are repurposing their space and serving their communities in the age of digital media.

 

February 25

Yes. We do Need Libraries in the Digital Age

Computers in Libraries

I finally carved out a few minutes to read the most recently posted, “Do People Need Libraries in the Digital Age?” by Christopher John Farley (02/14/2014, WSJ). Farley begins his opinion piece by endearing his library readers with, “Libraries, for me, have always been portals to unexpected places” which rang so true for me. He discusses ancient libraries like the Great Library of Alexandria which survived over 500 years because it was constantly innovating–something that libraries of today should model. Farley notes that libraries, in order to thrive (and survive) must continue to utilize technology and perhaps try new services such as assisting their customers in managing personal data (photos, unsorted emails). He suggests that public librarians also offer themselves as info guides (like an advanced advanced search)–most do currently.

Another concept that has caught some ground is “living libraries” where libraries connect their patrons with experts in a particular subject. Some libraries have been known to catalog these experts in their library catalog, or have the expert stationed in the library available to anyone seeking information in their field. Farley writes that Google launched “helpouts” connecting people with experts like we have seen “living libraries.” (For more information about human books see Human Library).

For libraries to survive:  innovate (check), technology (check), explore new services (check). Yep, libraries need to do all that to survive and then some. They also need a few more things like: adequate budgets (for all that technology), adequate staffing (for all those innovative programs)–and they need more people like Farley who can advocate for the importance of libraries and the critical role they play in every community within the United States.

I would challenge anyone who says they don’t need a library to ask themselves the following questions. Maybe today I don’t need a library but…

  • does my community need a library?
  • do the children and their parents of my community need a library?
  • do the people in my community without disposable income need a library?
  • do the people who do not have home computers or Internet access at home need a library?

Advocate for your libraries. Support them by utilizing their services, volunteer in your library, serve on your town’s advisory board, support their budgets and help their Friends of the Library organization raise money. If you don’t use the library, you can still support its mission because it supports the educational needs of your community.

 

 

February 13

“Who needs libraries, anyway?” Hadley responds.

As a library advocate, I am always seeking proof, testimonials, and stories that libraries can make a difference in creating a better life, a better community. So, when I came across this opinion piece via a post from LinkedIn it caught my interest immediately, “Counterpoint: Libraries’ mission is learning, not just books” by Kit Hadley (StarTribune, 2/7/14). Kit is the Director of the St. Paul (MN) Public Library.  I urge you to read the article; It is brief yet poignant.

Hadley writes, “The point of access to books and information, after all, is not access per se; it is what we do with information that helps us learn, create, prosper, self-govern and have fun. Our basic service is not books or information access, but rather learning, discovery and exchange. ”

Public libraries were created for the common good of the community and all of the rich and valuable resources are made available regardless of age, skill level, or ability to pay. I believe that the “learning, discovery and exchange” Hadley refers to is the self-directed pursuit of knowledge, intellectual exploration and the exchange of ideas through collaboration now seen in the 21st Century Libraries of today.

When library critics ask, “Who needs libraries, anyway?” you can find answers in Hadley’s words. For example, she says, “Libraries never have been about a particular medium.” Hadley is spot on. The medium has changed over the years, certainly, and now we have e-books. There is always something new at the library (microfiche, microfilm, print, CDs, online databases, you know where I’m going with this.)

I was very enthused and jazzed to read Hadley’s comments and I hope it gets traction and exposure not only in her home state but throughout the country. Libraries are not obsolete, not in the least so long as they are evolving and changing to meet the needs of the 21st Century patron.

Two more on-point sound bites:

  • “The touchstone service has been the support and guidance of skilled and caring staff”…..–Kit Hadley.
  • ….But the mission of libraries as centers of community learning is enduring, and learning has never been more imperative.“–Kit Hadley.

Again, please do read Hadley’s piece in it’s entirety. Hadley does a superb job representing not only her library, but how so many libraries are evolving and transforming into educational and intellectual entertainment hubs for their communities.