Reflective Practice

Before I knew that I wanted to be a librarian, I had studied to become a psychologist.  I completed a BA in forensic psychology and 27 credits of an MA in psychology.  I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with it, but I knew I wanted to help people.  I started working in a public library in 2005, when I was an undergrad.  The job was just to pay for my commute to and from New York City for school.  I continued to work in libraries throughout all of my undergrad and into my graduate studies.  Still, it was just a part-time job to pay for my commute.  Around 2009 I began to work at the college and by 2011 I was working there full time while I continued to work on my psychology MA.  Once I started to work full time I stopped working in the library.  Things were good until they weren’t.  Now, I’ve always, my entire life, struggled with depression.  I was born with sad blood; it’s just who I am.  In April 2013, however, it deepened into something that I could no longer manage.  I had been getting help, I had been on medication, but it wasn’t enough.  On April 15, 2013 I almost killed myself.  A few days later I checked myself into a hospital and got help.  I ended up not going back to my job at the college and found myself to be unemployed for about four months.  The days, weeks, and months following that event I found myself with a lot of free time.  I was applying for jobs constantly but not hearing back from anywhere.  While I waited for something, I tried to keep myself busy by going to see movies (I grew very fond of the first showing of the day on a weekday morning when the theater was empty), going for long drives, and visiting the library.  I would visit the two different libraries that I had worked in to sometimes use the computer, to sometimes take out some books, to borrow tons of movies (I watched A LOT of movies during those months), but mostly to reconnect with the people who worked in those libraries, the people I had worked with, the people who were the reason I had grown so fond of libraries.  In July 2013 it occurred to me to check if any libraries in my area were hiring.  I applied to one and, in the same week in mid- to late-August I found myself with two part-time jobs.  One was working the 5am (sometimes 3am) shifts at Michaels unloading trucks and replenishing the shelves (I was constantly covered in glitter for the three years that I ended up working there) and the other was working at the circulation desk in a public library.  In my time of need, a library came through for me.  Not just in the job opportunity, but in the way that it helped me to reconnect with people after the incredibly isolating experience I had just a few months earlier.

A year later, a job opened up at a library that was closer to home and that offered more hours.  Still trying to recover financially, I applied for that job and ended up getting it.  It is also the library that I am still in today.  Taking this job at this library is what finally made me realize that I wanted to be a librarian.  All roads have led back to the library for me.  What really solidified the idea for me, though, was my interactions with patrons when I would work the reference desk.  I was able to see how I could really help people as a librarian, how even the simplest of things that I help someone with (like setting up an email account or showing them how to respond to comments on Facebook from their iPad) can have a larger impact on their life.  I have had people come back in after helping them to tell me that now that they’re able to log on to Facebook, they can see more pictures of their grandkids that live far away, or that when I helped them upload some documents to an online job application that they couldn’t figure out they ended up getting that job.  It’s little things like that sometimes and it just made me realize that my initial gut feelings for wanting to pursue a career where I helped people were spot on; I can do that as a librarian.  And this is what shapes my ideas on what libraries and librarians should be.  I’ve talked a lot this semester about connections and community.  Those are the things that I build my approach to helping people on.  It’s about connecting people with the information/books/people they are seeking and building a sense of community.  I also approach my job with a deep sense of empathy and compassion.  We never know what someone is going through at any given moment.  Libraries and librarians were there for me when I was going through a difficult period of my life.  I want to build a library space and be a librarian who is there for every single person that walks through the door to help them in whatever it is they are going through, small or large, even though I will more than likely never even know what that might be.  I have always been an incredibly empathetic person.  I carry that though with me into my work.

Gill Corkindale’s article The Importance of Kindness at Work really resonated with me.  Corkindale writes “I have developed a greater awareness of just how many people are dealing with similar personal shocks.  I have been humbled to realize that this is happening all around me, all the time,” and goes on to write: “although I always knew that support is important for those affected by loss, illness, or tragedy, I hadn’t fully understood until now how critical it is in helping people get back on their feet.”  This is especially true for libraries.  Libraries are the safe places in communities that people can rely on to find free Wi-Fi and computers, resources to help them find jobs, learn a new language, or learn new skills, and discover things that can help them through difficult times.

Director’s Brief – Beacon Technology

According to the Pew Research Center, 77% of all U.S. adults own a smartphone.  This number rises to 92% of 18-29 year olds and 88% of 30-49 year olds.  In a 2015 study, Pew Research Center found that 73% of all teens had or had access to a smartphone.  Chances are, the majority of people who walk into the library today own a smartphone.  Libraries can begin to use this to their advantage by adopting beacon technology to communicate information directly to users’ smartphones.

Bess, Wu, & Price (2015) point out that one of the biggest issues libraries face is a general lack of awareness of the services or resources they provide.  Libraries are constantly looking for new ways in which to engage and connect with users, as well as to connect users to the information and resources they seek.  One new way in which libraries can do this is to employ beacon technology.  Many libraries have already done so, with a pretty successful outcome.

You can read the full report here: Rasczyk_DirectorsBrief

Reflection Blog #5 – Library as Classroom

Libraries are places of lifelong learning, from newborns to seniors.  Parents bring in their young pre-school children for storytimes and craft activities that inspire creativity and socialization.  Middle school kids come in after school to learn how to code and build robots or learn how to play chess.  Adults and seniors come in to learn how to use the computer, how to use their laptops or tablets or smartphones.  There is one gentleman that comes in who is well into his 90s.  He comes in and asks to log on to a computer so he can print.  Each time I show him something new, he asks me to go slowly so he can write down all the steps to help him learn how to do it on his own.  This man is a rock star.  He is in his 90s and wants to learn about technology.

It’s unfortunate that there still exists this dated stereotypical image of libraries as places where you can only (very quietly) check out books when there are so many incredible things happening in libraries.  In my library alone, we have an incredibly popular coding program for kids, an equally successful chess club for kids, and a surprisingly, overwhelmingly popular adult art class.  We have music and movement classes for preschoolers.  Coming up in May we’ll be starting a new robotics workshop for kids as well as a four-week series of art classes for differently abled kids.  We offer classes on basic computer skills, Microsoft office, Google Drive, and social media, as well as one-on-one tech tutor sessions.  One of our librarians is totally amazing when it comes to genealogy and she’ll be offering a two part genealogy workshop, which will be followed up by a writing your own life story workshop.  We have a small, but growing, tech lending program, as well as a museum pass program which provides access to 15 museums in New Jersey and New York City.  We have people come in to the library for the first time in years and every single one of them will make some comment about not realizing we had so much going on there.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey writes, “kiss your image of a library as a book warehouse goodbye, and say hello to community spaces and gathering places for the 21st century.”  In addition to cultivating an inspiring learning environment, libraries are creating space for people to come together and learn with, and from, each other.  There’s a quote from the Bible that I use a lot in my life:  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).  This means that people need people to learn, to grow, to live.  Libraries provide the resources and the opportunities for people to gather and to interact with each other.  Brian Mathews writes that, as librarians, “you might have people who can develop novel experiences.”  Isn’t this at the heart of what librarians do?  From collection development to programming to purchasing new technology to space planning, all of these things have the ability to create a novel experience for users.  The things themselves have value individually and independently of each other.  Libraries and librarians curate new experiences by pulling these things together and offering them all for free to users.  We create programs where users can learn practical skills or develop deeper community ties.  We create programs where users can play with new technologies and engage their curiosity. We create programs where users can tap into their artistic abilities and spark their creativity.  Sure, users can learn from libraries’ physical book collections, but more and more users are learning through the interactive programs that libraries offer. This is why it’s important to constantly be developing new programs and new approaches to presenting information so that it appeals to all types of library users and nonusers.  Let’s draw those nonusers in!

And on a final side note, how awesome would a goat yoga program be at the library?

Reflection Blog #4 – Internet of Things

I have a slight issue with the idea of the Internet of Things.  When I hear that term, my mind immediately goes to an über-connected world where even the most mundane, everyday objects are connected to the Internet.  And for what?  Just to say we’re connected in every single aspect of our lives?  Just because we can connect virtually everything to the Internet, doesn’t necessarily mean we should.  When I was reading Wojciech Borowicz’s article Why the Internet of Things narrative has to change, I had a “DUDE, YES!” moment (complete with pointing at my screen as if Wojciech could feel that I was pointing at him).  Borowicz closes the article with:

“The point is creating a structure for gathering and processing data from all those devices, giving access to them to developers and building meaningful services that provide real value to the users on top of that structure.

As opposed to a common assumption, IoT is past its infancy.  What we should be debating in the first place is not the design of a new funky home automation gadget, but developing industry standards, building growing ecosystems and figuring out how to provide security for the users of 50 billion devices that will be connected to the Web in 2020.”

My general apprehension towards of IoT, I realized, is summed up right in that.  We shouldn’t necessarily be focusing on CONNECT ALL OF THE THINGS! but more on creating the foundation, the structure of it first.  All of those connected gadgets will come.  It is inevitable.  But I think it’s more important to have this foundation in place first.

That being said, I’m not as anti-technology as I fear I sometimes come off as.  I really am all for it.  Fitbit can track my activity, my heart rate, my sleep, and put it all into a pretty graph? COOL!  I can use my phone to unlock my car after I’ve locked my keys inside while it’s running? THANK GOD!  A plate that can detect what you’ve placed on it and alert you to whether you’re portioning correctly for your specific health goals? NEAT! (Wait.. is that a real thing? NO ONE TAKE MY IDEA!)

Moving along, though, IoT technology absolutely has its place in libraries.  Satta Sarmah’s article The Internet of Things Plan to Make Libraries and Museums Awesomer really got me thinking.  The idea behind using beacon technology to send location specific information to users isn’t all that new to me.  My TripAdvisor app constantly creeps me out when I walk in restaurants and get a notification of what’s good on the menu or suggestions for what to do in an area.  The idea of using this same technology in libraries, though, is pretty genius.  Beacons could be used to provide book recommendations, give information about upcoming programs, provide new ways for users to discover things.  Actually, the more I think about it, the more I picture a shy tween wandering around the library, wanting to find something to read but not wanting to ask.  How awesome would it be for book recommendations to just pop up on their smart phone (that they’re staring at anyway)?  More than just that tween who’s too shy to ask, but developing an entire outreach program for teens and tweens, connecting them to books and programs that would be of interest of them.  This is one of the most difficult groups to reach, I think, and I think that using some kind of beacon technology could help engage them more. The possibilities for beacon technology in libraries are really only limited to your creativity.

Emerging Technology Planning

Goals/Objectives for the Book Vending Machine Project:

  • Provide a convenient location away from the library for commuters to check out and return library materials
  • Give community members more options for picking up and returning library materials outside of regular library hours; provide 24 hour service
  • Establish another presence in the community outside of the Library’s physical location
  • Tap into a section of the community who may currently be library nonusers
  • Increase reach and circulation of materials

Description of community that will be engaged:

The Book Vending Machine Project will mainly engage Town residents who commute very early/late to work and, as such, may find it difficult to make it to the library during its regular operating hours.  This service may also provide an opportunity for people to borrow library materials who, for one reason or another, may find it intimidating to visit a library or interact with people.

Action Brief Statement:

Convince the director and library board members that by placing a book vending machine and book return at the local train station they will be able to reach the community members who may not be using the library because of their early/late commuting schedule which will bring library services outside of the physical building and improve our presence in the community because it is important to try and tailor library services to accommodate as many community members as possible.

Evidence and resources to support the Book Vending Machine Project:

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy:

  • Mission: Introducing a book vending machine at the local train station will provide a convenient 24-hour location for picking up and returning library materials for those community members who are unable to make it to the library during the library’s regular hours.  The library’s book vending machine is a new opportunity to reach out to and connect with community members to show that our services are structured around their needs. It also increases the library’s presence in the community.
  • Guidelines for stocking:
    • The vending machine will be stocked with both regular and large print books. The selection will include both fiction and nonfiction and will focus mainly on new and popular titles and authors (e.g. New York Times Best-Sellers list).
    • The machine will also have a selection of audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs. Titles will, again, be selected by newness and popularity/demand.
    • Multiple copies of the most popular/in-demand books will be stocked.
  • Policy:
    • Users must have a valid library card from a BCCLS member library
    • A user’s card must be in good standing (fines less than $10.00)
    • Users may check out up to 5 items at a time
    • Lending period:
      • Books – 2 weeks (may be renewed twice if no holds exist)
      • Audiobooks – 2 weeks (may be renewed twice if no holds exist)
      • CDs – 2 weeks (may be renewed twice if no holds exist)
      • DVDs – 1 week (may be renewed once if no holds exist)
    • Items may be returned to the book drop at the train station or to the library
    • Additional policies may be set by the director and/or circulation supervisor

Funding considerations:

  • Costs to consider:
    • Cost of the book vending machine
    • Cost of a new book return with media drop (if it is not incorporated into the vending machine)
    • Cost of purchasing extra copies of books, DVDs, & CDs to fill the machine with
    • Cost of staff time spent traveling from the physical library to the train station to collect materials and replenish the vending machine
  • Funds for purchasing the machine and book return and implementing the service may be drawn from the programs budget, donations, fundraising

Action steps & timeline:

Timeline could take from 1-6 months, depending on time it takes for approvals, to hear back from companies, for shipping, etc.

  • Approval from Director, Board, NJ Transit (who owns the train station)
  • Research vending machine options, choose the type that fits most with the library’s needs, and get quotes from at least 3 companies
  • Approval of purchase from the Library Board
  • Place and receive order, set machine up, train all staff how to use the machine
  • If approval is not received from NJ Transit, alternative locations could include:
    • Memorial Park (1.8 miles from the library on the opposite end of town)
    • Sunset Park (1.2 miles from the library on the opposite end of town)
    • Directly outside of library (although this eliminates the convenience of having pick up and return options in a different location in town, this still offers a 24-hour option for those patrons who find it difficult to make it to the library during regular hours but still wish to borrow materials)

 

Staffing considerations:

The library is 0.4 miles from the local train station, which encompasses both NJ Transit trains and buses.  Google indicates that, on weekdays, the train station is the busiest between 6:00am and 9:00am.  Designated staff member(s) would collect library materials from the book drop each morning around 9:30am and replenish/rotate the material selection in the vending machine.  This time works because it is just after the peak period at the station and just before the library opens at 10:00am.  Depending on the capabilities of the machine, staff member may have a Chromebook and scanner to check in items onsite to replenish the machine with to avoid excessive toting around of items between the library and train station.  Once every week or two weeks (depending on popularity), materials will be rotated.

The designated staff member could check the drop on his/her way in to work in the morning.  Ideally, designated staff member(s) would also check the vending machine around 7:45pm (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), 5:45pm (Thursday, Friday), or 3:45pm (Saturday) to ensure a fully stocked machine for the morning.  These times are 15 minutes prior to the time the library closes and would allow for the staff member to leave a little earlier to swing by the train station.

Training:

All staff members (Director, 9 full-time librarians/staff, 2 part-time staff, 3 pages, 1 custodian) will be trained on how to work the machine so that they can communicate this information to any patron who asks.  Three or four full-time staff members will be assigned to maintain the machine.  The director and the 3-4 designated staff members will receive an in-depth training on the machine.  Training may be conducted by the manufacturer.

Promotion & Marketing:

The new 24 hour library service will be promoted on the library’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.  A slide will be added to the home page of the library’s website.  Additionally, the library will send a press release to the local newspapers and have flyers within the library.  Promotion and marketing for the book vending machine will also be, quite simply (hopefully), by its own physical presence and word of mouth.  The machine will be placed in an area that receives a huge amount of foot traffic.

Evaluation:

The performance of the book vending machine will be evaluated at the 6-month and 12-month marks; it will continue to be evaluated on a yearly basis.  Additionally, reports can be run on the circulation stats of the items that are stocked in the machine on a semi-regular basis to determine which items move and which ones don’t.  This information can be used when selecting titles to stock the machine with to get the most circulation possible.

If this is a successful project, this means that we were able to reach a section of the community that previously was unable to utilize the library as much as they may have liked to.  We could then consider adding a second location across town.   If the project is initially a failure, we could move the location of the machine to another area of town to see if it is more successful there.

Reflection Blog #3 – Thoughts on the Hyperlinked Public Library

Earlier this week I found myself thinking about what the ideal library is, to me.  If I could build a brand new public library, what would it look like? What services and programs would be offered?  What kind of special collections would there be? I’ve also been pretty interested in hygge lately, borderline obsessed.  Basically, it’s a feeling of warmth and coziness, celebrating the simpler moments of life, spending time with family and friends.  There’s a lot of candles, warm, cozy clothes, and playing board games by the fireplace.  My mini obsession with hygge has me thinking about how much it also reflects what we strive for in libraries: creating a space where people can feel comfortable and safe, encouraging connections and promoting conversation and discovery.

I went into the readings with those thoughts still floating around my mind, and I think that what left the biggest impression on me this week was Jakob Guillois Laerkes’ blog post The four spaces of the public library.  I think it’s important for public libraries to really embrace these concepts when building their collections, programs, services, and space.  Regarding the space within a library, Laerkes wrote that there should be a “transformation of the public library from a passive collection based space to a more active space for experience and inspiration and a local meeting point.”  This reflects the evolving nature of the library.  As the needs of our users and communities change, so too should the library, not just in collection and services, but also in physical space.

The four spaces of the public library are inspiration, learning, meeting, and performative.  Each of these spaces are not isolated or independent of each other, but overlap and flow into each other, creating opportunities for people to get excited through discovery, to explore and learn new things, to create, and to participate.  All of these ideas of space lead to the broader concepts, and goals, of experience, involvement, empowerment, and innovation.  My absolute favorite line from Laerkes’ blog post, which I think captures the essence of a library, is that libraries are “the space where children, youngsters and adults can discover and explore the world and thereby increase their competences and possibilities through free and unrestricted access to information and knowledge.”  Libraries build their collections based on their communities; they also need to build and redesign their physical space in the same fashion.  Incorporate more space that can serve multiple purposes: a meeting room which can also be used for study, instruction, or a makerspace.  Designing a lounge area that gives users a quiet, comfortable place to read or a place to encourage spontaneous meetings or conversations with people one normally wouldn’t have had the chance to interact with.  Design a computer lab that is conducive to technology and computer classes as well as general public usage.  The more I think about it, the more I think that every space in the library should be designed in such a way that it can serve multiple purposes and support different opportunities.

Reflection Blog #2 – Know your community

In order to best serve our communities, we need to know our communities.  We need to know not only the demographics of the people who make up our communities, but we need to know who they are as people and what their lives are like:  what are their hobbies?  what kind of music do they like?  do they like to travel?  what time do they visit the library? why do they visit the library? what do they do on their way to and from the library?  As Aaron Schmidt puts it, when we have the answers to these types of questions, “we can create library services that people had no idea they needed.  Anticipating people’s needs will surprise them, delight them, and make them feel welcome.”   And here we hearken back to my first reflection blog post where I talked about Steve Denning’s article on Forbes, Do We Need Libraries?  Delight our users.  Anticipate their needs.  To do this, we need to get to know the lives of the people in the community we are serving.  This is a sentiment that I have always felt strongly about.  But this leads to questions about the populations that we’re not reaching.  We need to learn about those people, too, and figure out a way to get the word out to them that the library is here for them, too.  How do we get to know those who don’t use the library, but would benefit from it so much if they did?

Nicole Baute writes about how mothers and mothers-to-be in rural Ghana are receiving health advice throughout their pregnancies via text through a program from the library.  They have access to computers with videos on what they can expect during childbirth.  This project identified an obvious need to connect women in rural Ghana with information and care during and after their pregnancies, but if these women didn’t or weren’t willing to visit a library, how could they reach them?  The texting is a pretty awesome solution to use such a simple technology in a huge way.  This is a great example of a library knowing its community and developing a service around it.

One of my favorite ideas surrounding libraries is that we make connections: people to the answers to their questions; people to people; people to novels; people to learning new skills; people to new passions.  Connections are being made in libraries, and the better we truly know the people in our communities, the better we can connect them to the things they desire.

Context Book Report: Poke the Box

I want you to take a few minutes and listen to this song.

You feeling pumped up?  You feeling like you need to go run up some steps?  You feeling pretty invincible, like you can take on anything?

That’s kind of how I felt after reading Poke the Box by Seth Godin.  Seriously.

I chose this book because of its subtitle: When was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?  Earlier this year I set a personal goal of trying or doing at least one brand new thing each month, so it almost felt like this book was calling out to me.

Poke the Box is slim, but it packs quite a punch.  It is a manifesto, a rant.  It’s the ultimate hype-book in some ways.  Godin’s passion for getting people to get up and do something, to initiate, to start and ship, to learn from failure, leaps off of the pages.  You can tell that this book was written with some degree of urgency.  Godin urges you to poke the box.  He writes at length about not just starting something, but seeing it through.  Starting is not enough.  If all you do is start things, essentially you have failed.  You’ve only succeeded once you’ve seen it through, once you’ve “shipped the product.”

The book is filled with a series of anecdotes.  Some of them felt like they were speaking directly to me, like they were written for me.  And I guess that’s kind of the point of the book, to make some connection with the reader.  To convince the reader to take action.  So many people don’t bother to try something new, to pursue some great idea they have, because they fear change, they fear uncertainty, they fear failure.  Godin tells us that these are not things we should fear; rather, we should be embracing change, failure:  “Change is powerful, but change always comes with failure as its partner. ‘This might not work’ isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you should seek out” (p. 44).  You shouldn’t put off starting something because you’re afraid it might not work out.  There is always something to learn from failed attempts, especially when you have nothing to lose by trying because what if it does work?

When I finished this book, I had a few different thoughts and feelings.  First off, as I mentioned above, I felt pretty amped up.  I had so many ideas going through my head about projects to start, things to make, changes to pursue, both in my personal life and work life.  Personally, I’m a person that starts new projects before I’ve finished old ones and next thing you know I have about 20 different knitting projects strewn about half-finished and abandoned.  I’m also a person who has to rehearse in my head what I need to say before I make a phone call.  At work, I’m a person who is sometimes afraid to speak up and offer my ideas or make too much of a contribution to a group or project for fear of being seen as wrong or inadequate or dumb.  I have a lot of confidence issues on things like that, but this is not a therapy session.  My point is that I’m basically the person this book was written for.  For example, quite a few months ago I had the idea that we should really try to get some kind of adult art or craft class going at my library, but I never spoke up about it.  I knew other libraries had these kinds of programs and I knew they were pretty successful.  Still, I didn’t say anything.  Just last month someone else proposed this idea and we’ve had a highly successful adult art class running through February with another session scheduled for April.  The class sign up filled up really fast and the wait list is 15-20 people deep.  I failed to be an initiator.  I failed to start something, for fear of it not succeeding in my library, even though I have seen many, many times great library programs and events that aren’t well attended.  It doesn’t mean it was a bad idea, or it was because of some inadequacy on the programmer’s part.  It just didn’t work out.  But it wasn’t the end of the world.  We see this in libraries all the time.  This program didn’t work out, but maybe try it again with a different approach, or try something new.  That’s what we do.  We continue to come up with new ideas to engage the communities we serve.  There will be hits and there will be misses.  Rationally, I know this.  The irrational voice in my head tells me, though, to overthink, overanalyze, and over-plan before I even bother to open my mouth with an idea.  This is where Godin showed up and smacked that right out of my head.  He makes great points about learning from failure, about keep starting until you finish, about being the initiator.  And these are all things that I think everyone already knows on some level, but just sometimes need to be reminded of.

The essence of Poke the Box is also at the heart of libraries.  As technology and the world around us evolve, so, too, must libraries.  Libraries have to constantly be on top of their communities’ needs.  This means being initiators.  Librarians are the ones that need to not just come up with the ideas, but to do something about them.  Librarians need to start, and “keep starting until you finish” (Bodin, p. 55).  Not all services or programs will be successful.  We learn from these experiences of failure and move on to the next idea.  Ideas are great to have, but useless if nothing is done about them.  Taking action is vital.  As Godin puts it, to just start is not enough.  We must see it through and finish, we must “ship” our product.  We must implement.  We must be doers, not just thinkers.

The really fantastic thing about Poke the Box is the way it’s written, broken up into small, easily-digestible anecdotes.  It is not necessary to read it chronologically; you can easily pick it up, flip to any page, and consume a small dose of box-poking inspiration.  This is a book that I would add to my own personal library for motivation when needed.

Reflection Blog #1

 

I was most struck by the Forbes article Do We Need Libraries? by Steve Denning because, right out of the gate, that is a question I’ve found myself thinking about quite a bit.  Deep down in my heart I know that the answer is yes.  Yes, we do need libraries.  Forever and for always.  But why?  Libraries service the community and their needs, and as these needs change and evolve, so do (or should) the services offered at the library.

According to Denning, the five “right” approaches for libraries evolving for the future are:

  1. delight our users
  2. enable continuous innovation
  3. make things better, faster, cheaper, more mobile, more convenient, more personalized for users
  4. anticipate future needs of users that they haven’t even thought of yet
  5. do more of what users already value and love; do less of what they don’t value and what may annoy users

They hyperlinked library is human-focused, not necessarily technological or digital.  It is about connections and links, but not those you click or tap on.  Instead, it is about connecting with the people who use the library with those who design and implement the services, programs, and resources available.  It’s about connecting users with the information they seek.  It’s about creating a sense of inclusion and community.

Of Denning’s five approaches to the future of libraries, the one that stands out most to me is the fifth one: do more of what your users already value and love.  This concept seems so obvious and we assume that we’re doing it already.  I’m in charge of purchasing audiobooks, large print, and music for my library’s collection. Since the budget for each of these areas is relatively small, I have to be very thoughtful in the selections I make.  I’m not going to purchase a ton of classical or opera music for our collection if it’s never going to circulate.  The people want pop, rock, country, rap.  So that’s what I’ll buy.  I’m not going to buy a huge collection of large print business and economic books because our large print readers prefer the latest James Patterson or Danielle Steel.  This approach obviously works for collection development, so obviously we should take this approach with the other services we provide.

Our patrons love the museum pass program that my library offers, so it made sense to pour a little more money into the program for this year and expand the museums we offer passes to.  There’s a large enough group of users who are not tech-savvy but want to learn how to use the computer or their new smart phone or tablet.  So we offer one-on-one tech tutoring and group classes on computer and internet basics as well as learning social media.  Many people use the library’s computers because they don’t have internet access at home and stress out that they won’t have enough time to finish their work before the library closes.  Now we’ve got a laptop & mobile hotspot lending program that users can borrow for two weeks at a time.

The most important thing is for libraries to connect with its users.  Or, rather, for librarians to connect with their users.  It’s the human connection that’s the most important.  All of the programs and services that libraries offer — ESL classes, computer classes, craft programs, story time, coding, chess, adult coloring — create a sense of community.

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