I am in my 4th semester of library school. Overall I have quite enjoyed all my class readings, but none have quite made me want to grab the first person I see and tell them all about it quite like Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Services by Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk.
What is Library 2.0, exactly?
To my mind, Library 2.0 is less a strict guide to a practice and rather a case for a certain mentality that library professionals would do well to adopt if they intend on staying relevant and perhaps even leading trends in their communities. Authors Casey and Savastinuk do not promise readers some magical library elixir, “do this, exactly like that, and you will thrive.” In fact, many times throughout, they caution against this type of thinking. There is no one roadmap to successful library service. Rather, we must listen to the communities we both serve and have the potential to serve in order to make a difference.
Casey and Savastinuk provide a whole host of suggestions for how to adopt Library 2.0. But first, what is it? Library 2.0 is an institutional mindset that values participation from within (library users, staff) and without (potential library users) the organization, and incorporates that input through constant evolution of library services, space, and policies. The aim of Library 2.0 as stated by the authors is to “improve services to current library users while also reaching out to potential library users.” If successfully adopted, Library 2.0 can and should also aid in staff retention and morale, something that I personally am incredibly passionate about.
Dealers of Delight
I have spent my three and a half years of library work mainly in two different branches: one, a small, quieter branch on the East side of my city, the other, the main branch and headquarters of the library system overseeing the children’s area. This reading assignment allowed me to conceptualize and put into words what I have loved best about both supervising that smaller branch and supervising the busier (and more micromanaged by library administration) children’s section: change not for the sake of it, but as a way to breathe life into the library and allow users and staff to shape it to its purpose in the moment.
As a library supervisor, I came to delight in the delight of others. How could we keep the library fresh, both so that we as staff couldn’t wait to show our patrons, and so that patrons themselves couldn’t wait to spend a day with us? Think the Beast in Beauty and the Beast when he shows Belle his library. That was the vibe I wanted to create, but not just with books! Extra craft supplies that had been sitting in our back area forever? Bring them out, set them up on a table in an interesting/attractive way, make a Creation Station out of them. Holiday books hiding in our staff-only area until the given holiday when we brought them out? Forget it, find the space and let’s put them out for people to enjoy whenever they want. A forgotten corner where nothing happens? Take up a puzzle donation and start a community puzzle corner.
None of these ideas are brilliant. They are just small things that come up on the day-to-day that you can try. Sometimes they come to you all by yourself, often they are suggested by a staff member or a patron. Seeing the gleam in a staff member’s eye when one of us got an idea and we realized we were going to try it, come what may, is what Library 2.0 is about.
Dampeners of Delight
The damper for me in all of this is that when you aren’t in a position to change workplace culture in this way, your morale can wither and die altogether. If management does not adopt or foster Library 2.0, how does a library move forward? How does a motivated staff member or group enact lasting change? Casey and Savastinuk provide some insight, but even their suggestions for those without power and who work in a lackluster organization feel less than helpful. While they maintain that change is still possible, perhaps I am jaded, but I would recommend leaving a place that is toxic and unwilling to motivate and care for their staff and incorporate public feedback. The work we do is too valuable to end in burnout, but it all too often does (and quickly) in library systems unwilling to change and communicate.
Be the Change
As for me, I left my system altogether and on good terms. Perhaps someday I can return, degree in hand, in a position to enact some positive change and incorporate a constant and healthy change cycle into the system itself. Now thanks to Library 2.0, I have a handy toolkit on how to get started.