The task of crafting library services that cater to a diverse—and sometimes misunderstood—community of patrons may seem daunting, yet there’s a simple and effective means of creating engaging, meaningful services: just ask. And while there are numerous philosophies that could be taken into consideration when creating relevant library services, my favorite (and the most straightforward) approach featured throughout numerous readings from Module 5: Hyperlinked Communities is to thoughtfully inquire about their lives, both inside and outside of the library. Some people in the earlier generations of Library and Information Science professionals have grown accustomed to the divide between librarians and patrons, but it’s our responsibility as modern-day LIS professionals to bridge the gap and strengthen the library’s relationship with its surrounding community. In doing so, we may establish meaningful, lifelong relationships with our patrons and strengthen the community as a whole—something that can’t be done without personalized, one-on-one conversations with individuals.
In Aaron Schmidt’s “Asking the Right Questions: The User Experience,” he urges that, “[i]nstead of asking people about libraries, we need to ask people about their lives,” something that may feel unconventional for some, but is absolutely necessary for the development of progressive and personalized library services (2016). Likewise, in Michael Stephens’s (2016) “Reaching All Users” he encourages his audience to be actively engaged with the community and states that: “[i]t starts with some questions. Whom do you reach well? Who uses your library passionately? Take care of them and keep them. Who doesn’t use the library? Who in your community could benefit from access, services, assistance? Find them. Go to them, ask them what they want and need” (p. 42). Both Schmidt (2016) and Stephens (2016) inspire up-and-coming LIS professionals, like myself, to embrace the often overlooked opportunity to have purposeful and transformative conversations with our patrons. Libraries have a longstanding reputation as being a foundational pillar of their communities, and it’s our duty as today’s LIS professionals to be the leaders of the ever-changing information dance—as Christian Lauersen would say, “[d]iversity is being invited to a party. Inclusion is being asked to dance” (2018).
Lauersen, C. (2018). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. Retrieved from https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/
Schmidt, A. (2016). Asking the right questions: The user experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=asking-the-right-questions-the-user-experience
Stephens, M. T. (2016). Reaching all users. In The heart of librarianship: attentive, positive, and purposeful change. Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association.