Why libraries are important.
Here at Appleton, we have been discussing the future of libraries fairly intensely for over a year. What will our community need from us going forward? What will the library of the future need? How will it be different from today’s library?
It’s a discussion that every library needs to be having.
There are a couple of great articles out there about these issues:
Public Libraries Online has a great article from the director of the Skokie Public Library, Carolyn Anthony.
Will these new organizational units become as entrenched as the traditional technical services, adult services, and youth services? I hope not because we need to be much more nimble to respond to the continuing changes in our communities and in the broader environment in which public libraries operate.
Take a look at how Skokie is adapting to the future along with other libraries and you will be inspired.
The Atlantic Cities has a great one about the library of the future. I love this quote:
"If we can’t shine in this environment, in this economy, shame on us," says Corinne Hill, the director of library system in Chattanooga, Tennessee—a system that has thoroughly migrated into the current era.
Is that the way your library is approaching things? With optimism but also by moving forward and embracing the changes?
Libraries have been given the advice to tell their story for years and years. If we can manage to show our impact through stories, it humanizes what we do. Statistics are all fine and good, but unless we can make them into something worth telling others, they are dry and lifeless.
Marketing the Social Good has a great article about organizational storytelling. I appreciate that he doesn’t just say that it’s important, since we all know that. Instead, he walks through how to map out your organization’s story. He uses the framework of the hero’s story from Joseph Campbell and doing it like that allows the drama to enter, the story to really resonate.
This is the best and most concrete advice I have seen for creating the story of your organization that is repeatable and memorable.
This morning I found two great articles about leadership in general that apply beautifully to leading in libraries as well.
The first is from Fast Company that offers 6 Management Lessons from Visionary Women Leaders. The article offers advice from six women at the top of their fields of business. These are women running companies like GM, Burberry, and J Crew. Their advice is not about being a woman in these jobs, but about how they lead. The focus is on decision making, tackling problems, creating energy and staying creative.
The second article is from Forbes and is about the importance of emotion in being a leader. The article speaks to the importance of how leaders respond to challenges with continuous learning and a fresh eye. Good leaders inspire and then get out of the way. They are honest, kind and respectful of the people who work for them. They collaborate and partner with people.
These two articles echo and support one another. If you are looking for inspiration for being a leader in your library in the new year, these articles can help.
Pew Internet has released the results of a new survey today that speaks to the way that Americans view the importance of public libraries. 90% of Americans 16 and older said that closing their local library would have an impact on their community and 63% said the impact would be a major one.
The study goes on to speak to the role libraries play and reflects some doubt by Americans about libraries ongoing importance in finding information. However, over 90% say that libraries are important for other reasons: giving everyone a chance to succeed, promoting literacy and love of reading, and improving quality of life.
The study also addresses which services Americans see as most important with books and media leading the way, followed by librarian assistance, having a safe and quiet place, and research resources. Which to me flies in the face of not seeing libraries as sources of information in the Internet age.
Just as with previous studies, this one reflects that even Americans who use their libraries actively do not know of all of the services they provide. The survey ends with the good news that 72% of Americans live in a “library household.”
School Library Journal has a fascinating article about a tween library space in Stockholm. There are several aspects that make this inspiring:
1. No adults are allowed inside except for librarians
2. Tweens have to be ages 10-13 to use the space
3. Spaces were specifically designed for both extroverts and introverts
4. There is a kitchen!
The article has several quotes that embody this philosophy of this library space:
Hoflin “was very clear” about why the library needed a kitchen, she recalls. “The library should be a place where you could smell fresh cinnamon buns when you are reading.” The right smells, tactile features, and visual elements would contribute to a “library that should evoke all kinds of emotions.” In a kitchen, Stenberg adds, people “sit down and talk together and eat and share stories.”
At its heart, TioTretton is “very organic,” notes Stenberg. “One of the biggest things is the philosophy that this is a work in progress that will never be finished. We should always try new things. TioTretton should shape and reshape itself.”
Take a look at the entire article and be inspired!
One of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits, has a new post about how creativity works and how to do it. He offers five ideas on how to do it, many of which I use on a daily basis. So if you want to be coming up with big new ideas for your library, this is a great way to do it:
1. Create time for solitude – this is so very important, especially with public jobs like ours. Librarians have to allow themselves time to think, plan and dream about the services you can provide. Getting past the guilt of claiming solo time is also necessary. You have to put it in the perspective that thinking time leads to better service for patrons. So stop the busy work for a bit and let some of those little fires you spend so much time putting out burn for a little while.
2. Search for interesting ideas – Read, read, read. And not just inside of the library bubble. Read about education, technology, diversity. Read leadership books, creativity blogs, talk with people, connect with others who share your passions and vision.
3. Keep an idea file – Since I’ve been told I move too quickly with new ideas, I started an idea file. When I know that there is capacity to try something new, I turn back to that file and find all of the amazing things I’ve collected. This can be articles ripped from magazines, a Word document filled with cuts and pastes from all over the web, or a tag in Delicious that lets you revisit these ideas.
4. Reflect on ideas, apply them to your field – Take time to reflect and think about how ideas from outside Libraryland can be adapted to fit what we are doing. Dream about what is possible, even if there isn’t a budget, there isn’t staff time, or there isn’t the will to pull it off. Ideas need time to percolate over time. Don’t worry that you can’t do it right now, there may be a way to make it happen that you just haven’t thought of yet.
5. Iterate on what you’ve come up with – Remix, add other thoughts, mix again, ask for input, run it past other staff members, brainstorm with other library leaders, continue to think. Give yourself permission to take time to make the idea the best and also permission to move on to other new ideas instead.
Do you have any creativity tips for librarians? What else do you do to come up with ideas?
As those who work with me will tell you, I’m a little bit crazed about having a neat workspace. Despite the stacks of picture books and children’s books waiting for review, I have only a few things out on my desk that represent current projects.
It wasn’t always this way. When I ran a small library, I was a “piler" not a “filer.” I still have to remind myself to file things away rather than just creating another pile that will sit there and then steadily be buried by other things.
I already have a very blank computer desktop and find it nearly impossible to use one covered in icons. Just like my desk, I keep items on my desktop that I’m currently working on and then either delete them when finished or file them elsewhere. Email is another place simplification works well. I have a system of folders that I sort things into. I’ve tried the auto-filing system but end up missing emails that way.
Having a simpler work space really works for me. Lifehack has a very nice piece about how best to create that Zen-like working environment. In fact, I’m getting inspired to clear even more off of my desk and walls.
Tumblr has a great new blog that offers librarians the ability to share some of their darkest secrets. Subtitled “A place for those of us in Libraryland to come clean,” the photos offer faceless librarians hiding behind signs that tell of their secrets.
It’s a must-follow for librarians and worth a laugh or two too.
The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has issued their first analysis of The State of Small and Rural Libraries in the United States.
The reports states that 77.1% of public libraries in the US can be categorized as small with 15.4 percent of the population, or 46 million people, served by small libraries. Almost half of all public libraries are seen as rural libraries.
Service continues to grow in rural libraries with a 4.2 percent increase in the last three years.
It is also clear the rural libraries serve to bridge the gap for rural residents with access to broadband and technology.
Take a look at the full report for more details.