The readings from module 4 really reminded me of everything we are doing to get ready for a new library. Several years ago our manager introduced the “Idea Box” an interactive tool that let library patrons submit ideas for programs and services that they wanted to see at the library. Patrons would write their ideas on a piece of paper and put them in a ball that would go through a Rube Goldberg-esque machine before finally landing in a box where the librarian could then collect the ideas.
For the new library he is back at it with a new idea box that he hopes will be easy to put together and made entirely from parts that you can get at any hardware store. The idea behind this is that he can then make the plans freely available and any library that wants to can make one and have their community participate and share ideas for programs and services. This is exactly what Casey (2011) meant when describing the participatory library. The idea box engages the community and includes them in the brainstorming process.
Our current library isn’t ideal for the kinds of activities that the participatory library will be made for, and it shows in the ways we have to mold our programs around the spaces we have. Our storytime overflowed the kids area so now it takes place in the central rotunda, the largest open space in the library. We have to find spaces on walls that weren’t meant to hang art and show off the creations of the after school crowd. To borrow a line from the Free Range Librarian, “The user is the sun” (Schneider, 2006). It’s a little out of context, but we are trying to build our spaces around the ways our patrons want to use our current library.
Right now, the plan for the new library is to build spaces that are able to adapt to any situation. That way we can create a huge open area during large community gatherings such as our Maker Mondays, or we can just as easily partition off spaces so that the after school crowd has their own space to socialize, create, or do homework in a noisy environment while other patrons who prefer quiet can have a silent space to work or read. The details have yet to be determined, but our architect has been selected and over the next several months they will be working with the community to get input about what they feel is important for a library space. I don’t know how the architects and city will be working with the community, but it would be nice if they got as much choice as the teens did when TeenHQ was developed for the King Library at SJSU (Chant, 2016).