For “Assignment X” I wrote about the possibilities of libraries as community spaces, and touched on the idea that the library does not just serve a single public, but multiple publics with various needs. This week, I kept coming back to the word ‘community’; it can be and often is used as a geographic descriptor (e.g. The library serves the community of Sioux Falls), but to me libraries building community is about fostering a feeling of fellowship and belonging. In her TED talk, Ciara Eastell says “It’s the combination of the different activities and the different people that give the library it’s life, it’s energy, it’s vitality” (4:31). While I love and agree with this description, she also says that libraries are places that are “inherently inclusive” (5:01), which I do not think they are now or have ever been. This is why the Multnomah County Library: creating conditions for equity to flourish video resonated deeply with me. The actions Multnomah County are taking are highly intentional, and they are meaningful to the people the library serves because patrons are able to see themselves represented and reflected when they walk into the building. Libraries should look, sound, and feel like the communities that they serve. The Oak Park Idea Box is exciting in part because it is a genuinely shared space that looks and feels like the library community. In “Asking the Right Questions” Aaron Schmidt writes, “Instead of asking people about libraries, we need to ask people about their lives” and I think this applies not just to developing services, but to the concept of the library itself. If we want the library to be an important part of people’s lives, it needs to reflect their lived experiences. A number of different resources this week highlighted how much people trust the library as an institution, and part of maintaining and building on that trust is intentionally reaching out and creating safe spaces especially for people who may not be among those who trust the library now.
A final related thought: while I do believe that libraries have an essential role to play in building not only a thriving internal community, but also in strengthening the geographic communities they inhabit, I do find it comically sad that we live in such a dystopia that the library has become the last bastion of human decency and care. Librarians and libraries cannot be everything to everyone, and as they continue to expand the scope of services and what a library is, they will need additional support and increased collaboration with other groups and agencies. Community is all about not going it alone, and libraries are no exception.
2 thoughts on “Reflection Blog #2: Hyperlinked Communities”
Dear Aaron, I agree that while it’s been fun brainstorming about all the services and spaces that can be included into the library, there are practical limits around staffing and financial realities that make some of these grandiose pitches impossible. Partnering with existing agencies and public spaces could be a great way to make meeting a community’s needs more likely. It also seems like taking services outside of the library and utilizing mobile units is increasingly employed to meet the community where it is at instead of expecting them to come to us, due to the trust issues you mention.
@berner Your last paragraph is spot on – 💯 agree. I truly believe cultivating partnerships with other institutions to further library service is the way forward.