The communities libraries serve are becoming more diverse. In seeking to move beyond the tired label of being “just about books,” libraries must engage with these communities through outreach and engagement.
Posts Tagged ‘community engagement’
Thanks to the clear divisions in our country, there has recently been a lot of talk about bringing people together. In the spirit of that call for camaraderie, I’ve been reflecting on the opportunities the library has to partner with others on programs and efforts.
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.
It’s November and that means National Novel Writing Month is here again! Participating in National Novel Writing Month, or as it is more commonly known, NaNoWriMo, is a great way for public libraries to support aspiring authors.
Sonoma County Libraries offers fitness and healthy cooking classes in its Healthy Living at your Library series as a way to promote health and fitness literacy. This is a growing trend to look out for!
The library’s reach isn’t limited to just its walls. The library’s reach should extend to the whole community. In a way, the whole community is part of the library: the schools, the civic groups, the offices of local politicians, the senior centers, the playgrounds, and much more.
Every so often a new phrase, buzzword, or philosophy about library service comes along and throws a different light on what we do, and how we do it. There’s been a lot of talk and interest in “the purpose-based library” recently. What’s that all about?
I had an opportunity to speak with Steven Potter, library director and CEO of the Mid-Continent Public Library in Kansas City, Missouri who recently co-authored a book on the subject. The purpose-based library connects with the community, collaborates to better reach goals, measures what is useful and shows value, and continually improves. Summing up, Potter says, “It is all about re-embracing the vitality of our profession.”
When your library has invested much time and money in a particular collection, you hope that your patrons take notice. Over the past four to five years, our cookbook section at Pharr (Texas) Memorial Library has grown tremendously. Unfortunately, the extensive collection circulated poorly. So we decided to roll with what we had and launch our own cooking show titled “Cooking with Ben” (after one of our staff members). Ben volunteered and was the ideal chef for the job. The response has been amazing!
Librarians are natural problem solvers, so engaging with the community and helping to solve real-life community challenges should be an easy fit for us. And for some, it is. For others, who like the safety of the library’s four walls and the status quo of traditional library services, community outreach can be daunting. Rest assured that there are many tools and resources to help you look outward and help make your community better.
Tech mobiles are popping up in big cities as well as small, narrowing the digital divide for underserved communities. These tech mobiles offer a variety of resources including classes, Wi-Fi access, computers for the homeless to apply for jobs, opportunities for youth to mess around with technology, as well the ability for patrons to borrow Wi-Fi hotspots to take home. As the advent of technology becomes more and more a regular part of our lives and a requirement for schools, it’s imperative to provide the same opportunities for everyone in order to be able to become modern twenty-first century learners and professionals.
The basis of all great detectives and scientists is observation. There is something to be said for using statistics and numbers to determine how the library is being used. It is concrete information. However, observing patron behavior either surreptitiously or based on the evidence left behind in the library tells a complementary story to that provided by statistics.
Although lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have long fought for rights, respect and acceptance, the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide might be seen as the most prominent milestone to date. The historic ruling will certain help boost an already growing awareness of and interest in LBGT people and communities. Fortunately, libraries can help by referring people to existing collections and archives that preserve LBGT history.
For me, the discussion raised another issue: is the library’s obligation to the existing demographics of the community or to a more diversified perspective? Specifically, consider collection development, programming, and displays. Should we offer only that which applies to our known community’s demographics? Or should we try to broaden outlooks and horizons? Many times our decisions in these areas are shaped by our users. We might put up a holiday display because we believe our community expects or supports that perspective. But are we sure? Should we, in fact, be displaying alternative views as part of an obligation to support lifelong learning? Would we draw more users if we expanded beyond our perceived local culture? Is this not part of obligation, also? While it may be easy to say we should do both–support our community’s demographics and expand on the status quo–the finances and/or politics of many libraries may not allow for such a broad spectrum of activities or materials.
The maker movement brings together handicrafts and technology in one exciting phenomenon. Whether you like crafts or circuits, or a combination of the two, there’s something for you. Libraries across the world, are offering specialized maker programs to encourage interest in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, as well as the more artistic areas of making. Some libraries are also offering programs tailored to specific patron groups, like maker programs for girls. An example of this is the Make-HER program at Sunnyvale (CA) Public Library.
Robots have arrived at the library. The newest staff member at Longmont Public Library in Colorado is a robot prototype named Bibli. It can tell a story, answer patron’s questions, and show patrons where materials are located within a limited amount of space. Bibli was built for this library to engage with library patrons–especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)—and explore partnering with industry.