To think that I spent my childhood, teenage years, and now my young adult life, in the library and yet never once thought the library could be anything more than a place to store books. That said, it should be of no surprise that as each week progresses through LIS school, I am discovering another new approach to library services, and I am learning that a job in the library means a lot more than just books on a shelf!
So what has sparked my curiosity this week?
There are more ways than currently imaginable for a library to serve its users.
In his blog post, Joe Hardenbrook (2019) described the creation of a community-run food pantry for students. He, along with his fellow librarians, noticed that some students weren’t eating (time constraints and lack of food/funding were several factors pointed out) and they wanted to come up with a way to help. They initiated a food pantry in the library, did so without seeking consultation or permission, knowing that this was a great idea and a great way to give back to the community. This was a great way to demonstrate that the library is a place for students and that the library provides more services that circulation transactions and interlibrary loans.
Other services that stood out in the readings were the provision of rest areas (nap pods) and the furniture and library’s layout in conjunction with the user’s information and research needs. Stress fairs are another example of a library services, yet how often do we think of these kinds of services? Surprise! Not all library services have to be about the library and books.
For example, I believe that smiling, greeting, and engaging in conversation with library patrons is a service and not just in our job description. This has been a struggle for me, I am extremely introverted and have never been a big fan of smiling. However, simple gestures like that go a long way, it makes connections, makes patrons feel comfortable in the library and when/if they need help, and it keeps them coming back. I have definitely noticed a larger number of frequent users coming into the library this semester, many happy faces, and many of these patrons will actually seek out conversation; they want to get to know the people who are going to help them find the resources they need.
If a simple hello is enough to keep a user coming back to the library, imagine what else we could do to get people through the door. It feels good when someone shows they care and are there to help. And that was a huge takeaway during this week’s module. Librarians want to help wherever they can, however they can. They want to see their users succeed, they want to see their users happy, healthy, and successful.
I don’t really want to be a parent, never have wanted to, yet I am starting to figure out that librarians are very much like parents; striving to make sure they provide the best of the best for their patrons so that those patrons can go out into the world and make something of themselves. That is a lot of responsibility and I am actually excited for it.
Bring a wookiee, because change is not a process you want to do solo.
Pardon the Star Wars joke, but as I have just recently finished a Star Wars/Librarian themed display at work, I cannot resist. In all seriousness, I am starting to realize why iSchool courses strive to make learning a collaborative experience. Once we become librarians, and even now for those of us employed at libraries, it will be/is expected of us not only to work with other library staff, but also to be able to engage in open discussions and be able to share ideas with other administrators, faculty, public service employees, students and other youth, and the list goes on of potential community participants. We have to work together. We have to change together. I really enjoyed reading Young’s article (2017) on participatory design and it makes sense! How do librarians know what to include in their building and as a service? How about asking the people who you intend to serve what they want to see in their local library? What do students want? It’s not just the books and a quiet place, they want more.
As I read Young’s words, he mentioned the use of games “to help generate ideas for solving [problems]” (2017). While I have had experience using “game brainstorming” with my fellow employees, I have already seen how effective “gamifying” can be, but I hadn’t considered including students in a similar setting. Whose says librarians can’t have fun? Long gone are the days of angry librarians monitoring the stacks, just waiting for that unknowing student to make the slightest sound before pouncing on them with a barrage of “shushing” that is just as loud, if not louder than the student.
Hardenbrook, J. (13 September, 2019). Starting a Food Pantry in an Academic Library. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from https://mrlibrarydude.wordpress.com/2019/09/13/starting-a-food-pantry-in-an-academic-library/
Young, S. (2017). Participatory designs in action | The user experience. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=participatory-design-action-user-experience#_