INFO 287

Humanizing the Library AKA “The Ultimate Marketing Tool”

Image retrieved from:

Our readings on transparency and participatory service contained a common theme: the humanization of the library. To succeed in this effort, we need to drive purposeful services that breathe life into our mission statements. As Stephens, Casey and Schmidt often point out in their readings, using our missions as our guide will help us decide whether we are doing what is best for our users. The next generation of libraries does not need to focus on technology to deliver on our missions. As mediums always change, we have to be mindful that our users should drive our focus. After all, aren’t they why libraries exist? Making the library more human involves showing both staff and users how they can influence the library’s services by involving them in planning and gathering ideas for delivering on our library’s core values. Chant (2016) found that San Jose Public Library was able to transform their teen space plans, TeenHQ, in a number of unforeseen ways using feedback and guidance from teen users. Another important strategy is to keep all stakeholders informed in all stages of planning. Having more informed users and staff means that we will make more informed decisions, and hence, build trust with stakeholders.

Getting buy-in from users, staff and other stakeholders can translate to long-term marketing for libraries. Making more opportunities for two-way communications with users can help us humanize the library and know that their voices are heard. In this way, patrons will see us for more than collections of books, but also as places that facilitate discovery (and maybe even fun!). As users spread the word of helpful services, we may easily gain new users. A final point made by both Stephens (2012) and Dixon (2017) is that all libraries should look for the barriers our organizations put in place to equitable access to the library. Do our users avoid us because they owe us fines and fees? Do they never ask for help because we are inaccessible in outdated or limited modes of communication? Whatever the barriers, it is paramount that libraries rethink what messages we send our users and realign ourselves with our stated missions.


Anderson, C. (2006). In praise of radical transparency.

Boekesteijn, E. (2011). DOK Delft takes user generated content to the next level

Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting participatory service in trying times.

Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007). A road map to transparency.

Chant, I. (2016). User-Designed Libraries – Design4Impact.

Dixon, J. (2017, July 11). Nashville, Salt Lake City, Columbus Eliminate Fines. Library Journal.

Kenney, B. (2015). Lesson’s From Seattle’s Failed Bid to Rebrand its Public Library. 

Kenney, B. (2014). The user is (still) not broken.

Mack, C. (2013). Crowdsourced design: Why Los Angeles is asking the public to create the library of the future.

Schmidt, A. (2013). Earning trust. The User Experience

Schmidt, A. (2010). Services before content.

Schneider, K (2006). The User is Not Broken.

Stephens, M. (2012). Office hours: The age of participation.

Stephens, M. (2013). Collection Bashing & Trashing.

Stephens, M. (2011). Stuck in the past.

YouMedia, (2015). In San Francisco, Teens Design a Living Room for High-Tech Learning at the Public Library

2 thoughts on “Humanizing the Library AKA “The Ultimate Marketing Tool”

  1. You ask some good questions about barriers – especially concerning fines and fees. I am pleased to see more libraries going to the no fines model. It truly is a user-focused action that removes an obstacle.

    • When I first heard about not charging fines, I was not ready for the idea. Once I heard all of the reasoning behind this model, it made such sense. This issue taught me that I need to look at the traditional library models from multiple perspectives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *