The 21st Century Library is more than anyone ever thought a library could be!
The concept of 21st Century Library is more than simply technology, or catering to Digital Native patrons. As Kathryn Greenhill wrote, her Library2.0+ envisions libraries that are “… the flexible, nimble, evolving, user-centred library.” The 21st Century Library begins with a mindset that the library of the future is not just responsive, but proactive, that it is more than anyone ever thought a library could be!
Flexible, nimble, evolving, and customer-centered are strategies commonly used in business for many years. It is often said, that these attributes are where a business gets its competitive advantage. If we believe that public libraries are being overcome and made obsolete by Internet services, eBooks, eAudio books, “eMedia” of all kinds, on demand information, and other 21st century technologies, then libraries need to find their competitive advantage. Simply appealing to society’s good opinions of public libraries, or its demand for library services, is not enough to ensure survival, let alone occupy an integral place in our communities.
There is much that can be learned from business about leading any organization. All of the marketing, R&D, and service activities accomplished by the most successful businesses can be applied to libraries. Despite what some claim is impossible to measure in a government operation where there is no profit-loss bottom line, there are returns on investment measures that libraries are now understanding as valuable tools in measuring a library’s value, if not its success. (Not to mention, when it comes time to justify your library’s budget to your funding jurisdiction, what better argument than your latest ROI study.)
Return on Investment is a valuable tool being employed by more public libraries all the time since one of the first in 2004 (See State Library of Florida 2009 ROI Study, Library Research Service, Return on Investment for Public Libraries, and “IMLS Grants To Support ROI Study…” )
In December 2008, Utah State Library conducted a pilot study of the State’s Public Libraries ROI and found that for every dollar of public tax support, the return was $7.35. ROI is just one of the many “business” tools that has application in public libraries.
………to be continued………….