Discussion #3: Because we care, we provide more than books

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#_

Join the Conversation


    1. @michael Yes, I loved that article. The success of a library food pantry just further demonstrates how the library can be so much more than a place for books, for information. Not to mention a pantry-like service (give and take) that actively engages the community and requires them to actively participate in that service, that is an exciting concept!

  1. Hi Adam,

    I loved knowing that Joe Hardenbrook thought to do a food pantry for the students because it shows that they are noticing the lifestyle habits of the students and are doing their best to show that they care by trying to meet their needs. It’s a great way to give back to the community and I know the students must appreciate what he and the rest of the staff did for them.

    I also really liked the idea of the rest areas and stress fairs! I think that these can be used by all of the library’s patrons. It shows the library cares about the health of their patrons by offering places where they can just relax and release stress freely. I would love to see that in libraries near me.

    I think that patrons are taking notice of the little things like a smile or a greeting and they really appreciate it when the staff offer a welcoming gesture towards them. As someone who isn’t the best at smiling and normally would love to hide, It’s even more powerful when we work to make sure that the patrons are happy and healthy, and most importantly, welcomed. Also, I never really noticed it but I think you are right that we are sort of like a guiding parent to the community.

    We need to think about things more creatively and I think it’s good to have fun with the things we are doing at the library. I couldn’t help but notice the gamifying. What were you planning to do?

    I peeked over once at a youth librarian’s desk and she is planning to order 4 Nintendo switches in addition to some more board games. It’s something that I have not seen much and I’m really excited. As someone who loves both board games and can appreciate video games, it’s wonderful to know that libraries are doing this now. I’m sure kids would love to have a place where they can relax and enjoy themselves with friends while playing with the latest games the library has to offer.

    That display is beautiful! It’s like a work of art in my opinion!

  2. Hi @alleyadam2019,
    This class is really opening my eyes to what libraries can be, too. I came for the books, but I’ll stay for the connections to be made with other people.
    And your display is awesome!

  3. Kind of a belated reply, but I just wanted to echo the enthusiasm and excitement for the beyond-book offerings that Michael, Tiffany, and Nikki all expressed. I also really related to the part of your post where you drew a parallel between librarianship and parenthood. I’m in the same boat (i.e., no aspirations for parenthood), and I was inspired by your excitement to fill a similar role in librarianship. Thanks for the thoughtful post and the personal connections that really seemed to speak to quite a few of us!

  4. @songt1993, @tori

    It’s funny. I have changed a lot since embracing the future career of an information professional, primarily that of a librarian. That change has included the realization that a librarian is a powerful, influential figure in an individual’s life: a reason why I now see librarians as more that “pagemasters”, but they are mentors, guides, teachers, stewards, and friends.

    Okay, so yeah, I thought the library was all about books, all about information. Even if I extended that definition to include online resources, audio/visual materials, opportunity and access to engage in a variety of library devices and programs, the library WAS STILL MISSING SOMETHING!

    A library can be more. It can be a friendly face. A helping hand. A place to pass the time. To play games. To connect with each other. A place to grab a coffee, to discuss this week in movies, books, music, a place to work together, to study alone. It is a place for students who are happy, excited, sad, afraid, struggling, stressed, homesick to all come together. A library can be a temporary home for dogs, those dogs serve the purpose of giving students a furry friend, a chance to slow down, to ease the mind. A library isn’t biased, a library doesn’t judge, a library doesn’t pick and choose (at least not when it comes to its patrons), and library exists to serve the needs of the community, not just the information needs, but all needs. Emotional support, mental well-being, instructions in life lessons and basic life skills. The library is a place where librarians see more about a person than that person see of themselves. Librarians know what the people want and librarians want to do anything, everything they can to help that person.

    Okay, now I feel better about that definition. It is sloppy, its messy, its also not complete, but this is how I have come to understand the library. In the process, working on an academic campus, you start to see how much of an influence, an huge impact! the library can be in a student’s life and towards their academic success. Its inspiring. Its terrifying. Its exciting.

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