Confession: I have neglected my duty as a library leader. With more than 10 years of experience working in three different types of libraries, and a multitude of specialized training under belt, I have neglected to strategically bring my library support staff into the conversation and up to speed on today’s public library services scene. I am still running the library clerk’s (circulation) position similarly to that of a grocer: smile, scan, and say goodbye. As a manager I must find ways to open the conversation and empower my staff to be a part of the ever-changing library community.
How much more empowering would it be if I was able to convey to my teams the scope of public library service today, the possibilities rather than the established procedures, the heart as well as the brain? Don’t we all secretly yearn to reach our community in deep and meaningful ways? This week I find myself wondering about how to make the Hyperlinked Library accessible to public library support staff.
Here are my first ideas:
Ask anyone! Our library is split into four areas: staff area, circulation desk, kid’s library, and main (adult collection-slash-public computers land). Everything we do, from the division of labor and decision-making, to how we treat our patrons is based on this model. I think we would promote and use our digital collection more if it existed within the four spaces of our library.
Jakob Guillois Laerkes’ article on “The Four Spaces of the Public Library” makes an excellent counterpoint and opportunity for re-imagining our traditional library space in a contemporary way. Says Laerkes:
The model consists of four different overlapping ‘spaces’: the inspiration space, the learning space, the meeting space and the performative space. These four spaces’ overall objective is to support the following four goals for the public library in the future: Experience, Involvement, Empowerment, Innovation.
Boom! Cut right to it: we are missing the forest for the trees.
John N. Berry III shared the exciting happenings at Edmonton Public Library and how it transformed teamwork. He wrote:
Based on retail and library models, EPL has brought all customer engagement (information services, readers’ advisory, reference, digital literacy instruction, and customer service) under a single unified Discovery Service. The idea was that customers don’t group their queries into those categories and every customer engagement is a chance to showcase services and advocate for the system. Reference interview training for EPL staff is now called “discovery conversation sessions.
As I just mentioned above, our library has an extensive list of services—many of them digital—that are not reaching our users. We could be so much better at acting as information intermediaries if we spent more time discovering what our patrons want to learn, achieve or access.
Unlock the customer’s needs and release the awesome powers of our invisible collections. It’s a win-win situation.
Dokk1 library in Denmark is one of many inspirational transformation stories being discussed in library school today. This needs to be shared with today’s library teams. Check it out:
Here’s the message I think staff in small libraries need to hear: it’s okay to dream, and to dream big.
Everyone understands: our little library is never going to be an 8-story marvel the size of 10 city blocks. Still, why can’t we talk about how cool it would be if our little library, which is embedded in a community of off-grid and sustainability-conscious residents, became an earth-berm Hobbit hovel? While we are discussing Hobbit-landia Public Library, we may reimagine our underused wall space as a lush, low-cost vertical herb garden.
This post is all to say that the Hyperlinked Library, as “an open, participatory institution,” (Stephens, 2011, para. 2) is not complete until all staff members are welcome to the table, and that it is up to all who understand this to lead the way. It took me 1.5-hours to link 3 small library challenges to 3 future-thinking concepts discussed in freely available online articles that I was reading anyway. We can do this, and ‘not having time’ (my go-to reason why I haven’t done anything) is no longer an excuse.
- Laerkes, J.G. (2016). The four spaces of the public library.
- Berry III, J. (2014). 2014 Gale/LJ Library of the Year: Edmonton Public Library, Transformed by Teamwork.
- Stephens, M. (2011). The hyperlinked library.