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.
Posts Tagged ‘community engagement’
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.
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.
Every July, thousands of people converge on Comic-Con International: San Diego to have an in-person experience with their favorite comics, TV shows, and movies. Throughout the year, conventions celebrating comics, pop culture, super heroes, and more take place across the country. These events are fantastic opportunities for libraries to meet potential users who might never have thought of the library as a place they would go, and connect with those who already love their library on a new level.
If you’re looking for a place to read and share great library stories, Gina Sheridan has you covered with her Tumblr, I work at a public library.
Keeping up with the changing landscape of gun control in all fifty states.
If you are anything like me you take a look at yourself in the mirror at least once a day. You might check your hair, shave your face. or adjust your tie. Perhaps a feeble attempt to change how people perceive us (maybe a little lipstick would help?). So, what do public libraries do to change people’s perception of them? Our regulars get us, they know us. But what about people who read about us in the mainstream media? How might they perceive public libraries if they knew us only through headlines and news stories?
The Fayetteville Free Library’s week-long Geek Girl Camp gives elementary-age girls the opportunity to learn and play in various STEAM fields all in one location – the library!
Two brand new libraries in the Province of Barcelona have a space with a kitchen and cooking equipment. The library directors explained why cooking programs for children and adults are very successful.