I have a friend who moved up to Norcal last year from Southern California. She knew no one when she moved here, but has since built up an incredible network of new friends in a relatively short amount of time. Her secret was Meetup – she picked a few groups with events for young adults in their 20s and 30s to get together, have drinks, and have fun. I get the impression from many of the readings this week that libraries are shifting to fulfill a similar role in patrons’ lives – we can connect people to each other based on shared interests or traits, help them build relationships, and give them a communal space to do so. Library staff act as the initial “leader” of the tribe by planning and implementing program ideas that allow people to join up. The knitting group at Gwinnett library that Professor Stephens (2017) was a great example of this. I’ve seen other great ideas in the past in my own library system, Sacramento Public Library (SPL).
SPL has innovative programming for adults in their 20s and 30s (Alt + Library) that include trivia nights at the local bars, adult animation showings (of South Park, for example), storytimes by a local celebrity drag queen, and serious discussions about important topics of the day. Why is this such a great idea? According to a recent Pew study, Millennials are the most likely generation to use libraries today. And per Pewhairangi (2014) we need to, “become obsessed with your most valuable members”. By targeting millennials, SPL is honing in on one of its largest user groups. The wide range of programming offered to this particular generation also seems to suggest that the library took Pewhairangi’s (2014) and Schmidt’s (2016) advice of getting to know their users beyond their interactions with the library, and instead asking “people about their lives” (Schmidt, 2016).
These Alt+Library events happen mostly in the downtown/midtown area where trendy nightlife is prevalent. In the neighborhood branches, SPL has implemented things in the past like the (now defunct, unfortunately) “Tea and Technology” series where senior citizens could stop by for some tea and listen to lectures about technology from professionals, then engage in discussion and question and answer sessions. It was a safe and fun social space to learn about confounding new technology. Recently, one of our branches, the Colonial Heights library, has been remodeled to contain a kitchen. Though it’s much smaller than the examples presented in Kim’s (2014) article, it has been used in the past to hold Co-Op Community Kitchen events to teach patrons about cooking and nutrition. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that these programs can be hard to maintain. It’s difficult to “delight” our patrons continuously, and/or the time/monetary cost of maintaining these programs (like the kitchen) can be high. I suppose this is all the more reason to continue discourse with our communities to ensure that we are providing them with services that speak to them, which gives us more motivation and reason to find creative ways to fund services and keep these programs going.
Finally, Schmidt’s (2016) article had the most impact on me in this group of readings because it reframes the way we look at library evaluation and user satisfaction surveys. I’ve always had an uneasiness about the questions we normally ask patrons, AKA the generic, “What do you want to see in the library?”. I didn’t truly understand why until reading Schmidt’s short article. It’s because, when faced with a question like that myself during systemwide staff surveys, I wrack my brain for something innovative. If instead asked what I like to do, I could write paragraphs on that.
Geiger, A. (2017, June 21). Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/21/millennials-are-the-most-likely-generation-of-americans-to-use-public-libraries/
Pewhairangi, S. (2014, May). A beautiful obsession. Weve. Retrieved from http://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/WEVE_May_2014.pdf
Schmidt, A. (2016, May 4). Asking the right questions: The user experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2016/05/opinion/aaron-schmidt/asking-the-right-questions-the-user-experience/#_
Stephens, M. (n.d.). Hyperlinked communities. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=7ef87729-0d46-4628-94c6-508c5b995428