“But, librarians aren’t teachers.” This was one of the first (and most common) comments I encountered when I began my research. “Degree-wise, yes. But,” I asked, “are they instructors?” Do most libraries (read this as librarians) have to walk someone through a process, whether it be how to download and use an app, reserve a book or a room, or access and use library databases? What about programs and classes? Most libraries today are offering a variety of choices to their adult communities: help with résumés, genealogy, technology. Name a topic, and some library in the United States is probably offering a class or program. Do these all count as teaching? Of course they do.
In keeping with this issue’s theme of fantastic failures, we turned to some of our favorite authors to see how they had navigated disappointments in their own careers. Their sympathetic yet heartening responses are below.
Much has been written about the numerous benefits to be had from a failed experience at work. It’s widely thought of as a cliché in the business world to “embrace failure.” There are, to-date, eight TED Talks about learning from failure. Experts extol the virtues of analyzing mistakes in order to avoid repeating them. Many managers have procedures and policies in place that are designed to help their employees embrace failure in the name of positive change. And yet, denying failure and a reluctance to admit defeat are still the norm, from healthcare to politics, from giant corporations to small-town public libraries.
Patron bashing—i.e. venting, ruminating, gossiping—might be the greatest failure when it comes to customer service and perhaps the greatest barrier to excellent customer service in libraries. It creates a toxic, negative environment that stunts innovation, wastes time, and waters down service. If that isn’t bad enough, patron bashing is a drain on our mental and organizational health.
MATT SMITH is Collection Development Specialist at Kalamazoo (MI) Public Library. Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Matt is currently reading The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward. Hermann Hesse once wrote that “nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to […]
KRISTY PASQUARIELLO is a Children’s Librarian at Wellesley (MA) Free Library. Contact Kristy at email@example.com. Kristy is currently reading My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson. When I first started working as a children’s librarian in a public library, I had grand plans for the successful programs I would run: charming storytime […]
Scrolling through my Twitter feed the afternoon after the election, I was surprised to see so many people tweeting that the results were in: Donald Trump had won the popular vote. It surprised me because earlier that morning I had heard on the radio that Hillary Clinton was pulling even further ahead of Trump. I did some fact-checking and it became clear: I had witnessed another example of the viral spread of fake news.
William Caxton printed Aesop’s Fables in 1484, some saying it was the first book directed at children. Nearly two hundred years passed until The Little Book for Little Children by Thomas White was published in 1660, and the first modern picture book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, wasn’t published until 1902. After a very slow start to the publication of children’s picture books, diversity within these books was slower still, and progress even reversed during certain decades. I became interested in picture book diversity after discovering that the first picture book to feature an African American character, The Snow Day by Ezra Jack Keats, was not published until 1962. I began to investigate this subject further and became concerned by my findings.
In light of recent and continuing conflicts between citizens and police across the nation, the Nashville (TN) Public Library (NPL) has partnered with the Nashville Police Department on a groundbreaking diversity education initiative that aims to improve understanding and communication between police forces and citizens. The program, Civil Rights and a Civil Society, uses NPL’s […]
In October 2015, Alberto Manguel wrote a fascinating editorial in The New York Times arguing for “reinventing the library.” Among those of us in the profession, and especially those of us who have passionately embraced and argued for libraries as community-centered institutions, such a title would have led us to expect an article focused on the many ways in which libraries, through creative programs and services, are establishing new relevance for themselves in the digital age. In Manguel’s essay, though, the reinvented library isn’t about makerspaces, concerts, yoga classes, or PokeStops. The reinvented library is about . . . books?
During the last decade, technology has provided us with tremendous individual power, and this has encouraged the development of what is being called the Maker Movement. This movement is having a profound effect upon the manufacturing sector as well as the individual’s ability to explore and share creative ideas using computer-aided design and an online network of collaborators. In response to interest in participating in self-directed projects that utilize digital tools and knowledge, libraries and other community-based organizations have created makerspaces. These facilities provide users with the physical tools and space to pursue their interests and collaborate on projects. Educational research shows that this type of activity can facilitate learning, but little is known about what the users themselves perceive to be the benefits of access to makerspaces. This exploratory study examines users’ perceptions of their experience in public library makerspaces.
FEATURE | Prescriptions for Joy: Librarians, Collections, and Bibliotherapy in Pediatric Hospital Settings
How many of the millions of children hospitalized each year in the United States have access to book collections during their hospital stays? How many are offered treatment plans that include bibliotherapy? Public libraries have a responsibility to know the answers to these questions pertaining to hospitalized children in their communities and also to serve these young, isolated patients.
The public library should be a place of learning, exploration, and enjoyment for children. The library should also offer parents essential resources and tools to successfully raise children. We do provide these services, and we do it very well—and absolutely should continue to do so. But we too often exclusively brand ourselves as a resource for families. In addition to visual promotions, much of our narrative is focused on families with children, from newsletter articles to local paper write-ups to board meeting talking points. Who could blame us? Those images tug at the heartstrings, and stories of kids creating a craft at a program will appeal to any mom or dad. But, in promoting this impression more than others, public libraries are, to our detriment, alienating a rising population of potential users. It’s time to modify our marketing perspectives.
As a local history librarian, I read with great interest that Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been amassing video interviews of music legends for an ongoing oral history project. It is encouraging to learn that they, too, recognize the value of this preservation format in collecting first-person history. With greater interest, I read further that they recently interviewed four greats together: Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Domino. But they ran into some difficulty. Little Richard dominated the interview, and they had to tape the other three individually the next day. These museum curators were unaware of the dangers of the multiple-person interview. Less can equal more. Oral histories are most effective when the interviews are one-on-one. How do I know this, and why is it of interest to me? Over the past ten years at Way Public Library (WPL) in Perrysburg (OH), I have conducted dozens of oral history interviews.