Tag Archives: Advocacy

Replacing School Libraries with Makers Spaces – a worrisome tale


I want to preface this post with a disclaimer: Though I spent 2 years in charge of a school library in the early days of my career, I make no claim to any special expertise in children’s services or school media centers beyond the general knowledge I have gleaned during my time in the library profession.  In addition I do like to ‘stay in my lane’ and, as a result, have rarely if ever weighed in on issues specific to school libraries. When I began reading about the Makers Movement in school libraries, I left the issue alone as it was outside my wheelhouse. However, as this picks up momentum nation-wide it will come to affect us all in time, not just as public libraries but also as a society looking to an educational system to develop our next generation.

I have previously mentioned that I was slow to embrace the Makers Movement shift in public libraries.  It simply didn’t speak to me right away; so I was a bit of a hard sell. I believe libraries, while we continue to innovate, must make decisions based on the ‘long-haul’ from a position that respects public trust and our over-arching missions that withstand the tests of time.  It is human nature to jump on the new exciting thing. However, I have been completely convinced that these programmatic spaces and innovative offerings in public libraries are an exciting component of lifelong learning and essential to bridging the digital divide just as books were in the early 20th century.

So as much as I am a proponent of Makers Spaces in public libraries, this same movement in school libraries is worrisome.  Is the school library really the appropriate home for a ‘makers space’ (3D Printer, sound studios, sewing machines, etc)?  I may be working from an old model- let’s admit- it’s been awhile since I was in elementary or high school.  But wouldn’t the 3D printer be more logical placed in the computer science department or the Technology/Computer Lab?  And the sound studio in the Music Department? And the sewing machine….what happened to Home Economics?

If you do agree that the school library should embrace the ‘movement’, then comes the question of “To what degree?”.  Where is balance in a school library setting between reader advisory, digital literacy, bibliographic instruction, etc and the cutting edge technology we are seeing in Makers Spaces in public libraries?  In at least one school district in Kansas it appears the scales are far from balanced and it has many worried:

School libraries shift toward innovation areas, but librarians fear for what’s lost,

by Rick Montgomery of the Kansas City Star June 24, 2016

(Edited for brevity- follow link for complete article)

Librarians in the Shawnee Mission School District are making way for “the maker movement,” and some worry where that story is going… at least four Shawnee Mission grade schools have hired “innovation specialists” to run their libraries when fall classes open.

That’s the language of the maker movement, which seeks to convert once-quiet school spaces — usually in the libraries — into hands-on laboratories of creation and computer-assisted innovation….In fact, the word “librarian” didn’t come up in the job description for an innovation specialist at Merriam Park Elementary. “Stories” wasn’t there, either. No mention of “books,” “literature” nor “shelves.”

[Jan] Bombeck [of Ray Marsh Elementary] said. “It’s like they’re avoiding people with library certification.”

District administrators say that’s not the case. They do acknowledge, however, that grade schools haven’t much need any more for the libraries of 20 years ago — when they stocked books, gave research help, suggested age-appropriate literature and provided a cozy corner in which kids could turn pages.

Wow…Really? That is quite a statement “haven’t much need any more for the libraries of 20 years ago”…so no middle ground? School libraries must either be an arcane model  or makers space?

 Today all Shawnee Mission pupils are issued an electronic tablet or MacBook, providing them many times the information once squeezed on library shelves.“Now that they have those digital resources in hand, no longer do I have to get up and walk my class to the library,” said Michelle Hubbard, assistant superintendent of leadership and learning.

It is excellent to hear that these technologies are being made available to students on this scale.  It is equally distressing to hear a school administrator diminish decades of school library efforts to this degree of irrelevance.

 This past weekend at Union Station, hundreds of area kids demonstrated what it’s about at the sixth annual Maker Faire: They programmed 3-D printers to craft sculptures. They used laptops to help Lego robots complete assigned tasks. They showed off sewing, gardening, electrical wizardry and consumer products of their own making.

In this worrisome movement I see a computer lab, tech center, science innovation, music education enhancements and home ec (with even a little bit of ‘shop class’ thrown in).  What I don’t see is a library.  If we need these innovations in our schools- and I would ABSOLUTELY argue that we do- let’s place them in the appropriate department.  If we need sewing machines and we wish to teach this skill, bring back those amazing Home Ec & Shop teachers who taught us how to make great pillows, bird houses, balance a check book and even cook! But don’t use them to replace Librarians. These are two different things and both are necessary!

 …Leslie Preddy, president of the American Association of School Librarians….“To call yourself a librarian, you need to have that training and to be certified,” said Preddy, who works in a school district near Indianapolis. “If you replace a certified librarian with someone who’s just an expert in technology, you’re losing half of the role that school libraries are supposed to be serving.

“You still need someone who is a champion of reading.” She cited the research of Keith Curry Lance (much of it funded by librarian groups) that shows higher student scores in reading, and in some cases even math, at schools where certified librarians are present.

The shift has many worried and they are speaking out.  Hoping to encourage the school district to seek a balance between library and makers space.

…Bombeck…took a stand. At the May 23 meeting of the Shawnee Mission school board, the librarian stepped up to an open mic …“Several elementary principals have expressed a desire to turn the library into only a makers space without any library curriculum,” Bombeck said. “I have never ‘just read stories’ and checked out books. I have taught digital citizenship, copyright law and internet safety. I have taught research skills and database use.”

Ellie Seemann, who just finished her final year as the Merriam Park librarian, said that offering maker spaces and traditional library services shouldn’t be viewed as an either-or proposition. “I hate to hear it talked about as one or the other,” she said. ….

But, unfortunately there may be more at stake than the library-advocates can rail against…

District officials say part of a $233 million bond referendum that voters passed in 2015 directed funds toward remaking school libraries. They say the innovation goals were well-communicated at the time.

As for staffing, assistant superintendent Hubbard said: “It’s really more about the skills that an individual brings to lift kids to that level than it is about certification.”

Whether or not educators have completed a master’s program in library science, which is one route to certification, Hubbard said that “all great teachers can teach kids to read and teach them research skills.” She said she would expect those skills to be highly considered whenever maker-minded teachers are hired to replace retiring librarians….

$233 MILLION! Towards ‘remaking’ libraries.  As I lay in bed in the dark of night and ponder these shifts perhaps I am becoming more cynical with age, but I do wonder: In an educational system that has spent the past decade downsizing and marginalizing school media centers and the role of Librarians, is this shift to makers spaces simply another step to further that agenda but with a more palatable flavor? From the success of the bond referendum and the resulting organizational changes to district libraries and hiring practices, one could certainly draw that conclusion.

They say “you can’t fight city hall” and I think the same sentiment could be applied to school districts.  But I do hope that the professionals, the public, the parents, and groups like ALA and AASL will continue to fight the good fight and raise issues with the worrisome path school districts are choosing.  I certainly believe a balance between library and makers space can and should be found that will provide the most educational   opportunities for students.

If not, in 20 years when our “libraries” are full of sewing machines and 3D printers, we may find ourselves reading articles about a revival movement to add “Reading Spaces” to schools…where will those go…the band room?

 

 

 

 

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Friends Are Priceless!


February is Friends of the Library Month

Friends Make a Difference…

Friends help advocate for 21st Century Libraries.

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Friends support life-long learning.

FOL

Friends are of all ages….

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Friends Board

Friends provide valuable community service.

Friends support LLL

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Librarian or Radical Social Activist?


Last weekend began ALA’s Midwinter conference. Obviously, librarians (and others associated with the profession) got together to discuss the old and new topics of the profession – mostly old. But LIBRARYJOURNAL Online posted this on Saturday – ALA Midwinter 2012: Occupy Wall St. Librarians Wonder, When Did Sharing Become a Revolutionary Act? – about the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) librarian activists.

The article reports on a panel discussion that was sponsored by the ALA Masters Series and “included the first OWS librarian”. Another of the panelists and OWS librarians, a very recent MSIS graduate, was cited in the article that “he characterized the librarians as continuing the fight for their beliefs” even though the library had basically been destroyed when the protest was broken up by New York City authorities.

What concerns me are the apparent radical activist beliefs, motivations and perceptions of these librarians that inserted themselves into this “Occupy” movement, and affiliated a social protest movement with a “library” by using totally warped reasoning.

My first questions are: Who assessed the need for (we’ll be generous and refer to their book collection and reading area as) a “library” for the protestors? Who decided that their OWS library was a “People’s Library”? What is a People’s Library? Is that a new category like Public, Academic, School, Special, etc.?

Who decided this was a “library” in any sense of the term? If that was a “library”, let me show you my library that I carry in my brief case.

That same panelist was also quoted as saying that; “I joined [the People’s Library] because building a library, any library, in times like these is an act of resistance, and protest, and hope, and love,”. ?????? SERIOUSLY? Resistance and protest against whom? Your local library Board? Your local town council for cutting the library’s budget so it can still provide police and fire protection, and teachers salaries? Protesting against the Library of Congress? Society in general because libraries are not more valued? PROTESTING AGAINST WHOM? And, since when did the mission of a library become social protest?

In my opinion, these librarians are on the wrong track as far as what librarianship is all about, as well as the role of a library, and are simply acting out their frustrations toward society under the guise of librarianship.

Another panelist “spoke movingly on the topic of libraries’ importance. “Librarianship has a long history as a liberating force in society,” she said.” SERIOUSLY? Libraries have long been about liberating society? Read my Post from September 16, 2011, 21st Century Librarianship vs. The 1876 Special Report in which I quote the authors – librarians – who professed;

So that in fact it is only just now that we are coming to the social state where we are ready to produce a trained literary class. Thus far we have not done it, whatever may have been the case with a few individuals, and we have had no business to do it. Ax, plow, steam engine, not pen and palette, have been thus far our proper implements; and we have done a noble “spot of work” with them. Exactly now, at the end of our first national century, it is good to sum and value just this total of attainments. And exactly such a scientific instruction in books and reading as is here discussed is one of the influences which will do most to correct our views, to raise our ambition, to bring us up to the present limits of attainment in knowledge and in thought, and to prepare us for extending those limits. [page 235]

“… we are ready to produce a trained literary class” can only be interpreted as elitist librarians and their more elitist scholarly colleagues making the decision and plan as to how, what and who should be educated with books. We know that from the history of education in the US. Saying that “Librarianship has a long history as a liberating force in society,” is just not true.

Librarians had a very elitist self perception not that many years ago, and it seems as though that pendulum is swinging back in that direction.

As recently as 2007, George Needham is quoted as saying; “The librarian as information priest is as dead as Elvis.” The whole “gestalt” of the academic library has been set up like a church, Needham said, with various parts of a reading room acting like “the stations of the cross,” all leading up to the “altar of the reference desk,” where “you make supplication and if you are found worthy, you will be helped.” (When ‘Digital Natives’ Go to the Library, Inside Higher Ed., June 25, 2007.) If that is not a historical example of professional elitism, I’ve never heard one.

One of the panelists is quoted as saying; “How have we come to a place where the sharing of books, and the gathering and disseminating of knowledge has come to be such a revolutionary act – one that brought the full force of the militarized New York police department down upon it?” she asked. “I think the reason is that today we see an all-out assault on what libraries stand for and what they do.”

If we concede that building a library – “any library” – would be great and a necessary act, it would only be revolutionary if there wasn’t one already! Last time I heard the NYC Public Library, and its 70 something branches, is still up and running stronger than ever. How far away was the closest NYCPL branch – 2 or 3 blocks? Who knows whether the books that were retrieved from the NYPD after the protestors were cleared out were even usable before the OWS protestors were cleared out? Does anyone really believe the NYPD wants 3,000 paperback books?

Talk about self-centered! Does this person seriously expect anyone to believe that the New York police department was targeting the “library”? These librarians want to bizarrely take up a mantel of persecution upon themselves and their cause – whatever that may be but which is totally separate from the OWS cause – simply by affiliating their “library” with an illegal protest movement. An “all-out assault on what libraries stand for and what they do” – SERIOUSLY? I can’t help but wonder if this person even knows what libraries stand for and do.

I’m very concerned about this radical activist role that new librarianship seems to be taking upon itself. It is not the role of the librarian. It does a disservice to our profession to have radical activist librarians making hysterical vague and patently untrue claims about societal assaults on libraries.

Librarian or Radical Social Activist – which one did you get into the profession to be?

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“Likenomics” & Library Marketing


Likenomics is a term that describes how personal relationships, individual opinions, powerful storytelling and social capital are helping brands and their products and services to become more believable.”

What does that description mean to you? It says to me – Social Media is a valuable new tool for 21st Century Library marketing.

This description of “likenomics” comes from the presentation “15 Marketing & Social Media Trends To Watch In 2011” by Rohit Bhargava, “award winning author of Personality Not Included, a founding member of the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence team, and Adjunct Professor of Global Marketing at Georgetown University. The term “likenomics” has been attributed to Bhargava.

An explanation according to amplify, “an agency offering end to end advocacy, marketing and public relations services for associations, non-profits and small businesses”, at “Likenomics: The Economics of Digital Advocacy”, states that “likenomics” is:

… the acknowledgement that social capital is one of the most valuable assets that individuals and organizations can possess in today’s online environment. We all know that it’s simple to post something online, but it’s not so easy to gain and maintain the respect and popularity that is needed to really see your efforts explode (in a good way).

The most direct connection of likenomics is seen every day on Facebook, where ‘liking’ something drops it into your news feed and in front of all of your friends – it turns individuals from passive consumers into advocates for your brand. How’s that for exponential coverage: one like = 200 impressions. Not so bad.

In fact, Facebook knows exactly how valuable ‘liking’ something is – and they’ve decided to take advantage of it by providing sponsored stories. With sponsored stories, when a user interacts with your brand on Facebook (whether through a Like, Check-in, Wall Post or Custom App) your brand will appear twice: in the user’s News Feed, and in a sponsored ad that features that user’s name.

Because consumers trust their friends and peers more than anyone else Facebook is letting you profile them as advocates for your brand – improving ad recall, awareness and purchase intent.

Would you like to turn your library supporters “from passive consumers into advocates for your brand”? Do you have stories worth getting sponsored on Facebook, and being shown to hundreds and thousands of potential customers? Do you have supporters whose endorsement would make your library more “believable”?

Are you acquiring social capital for your library and spending it among your Millennial customers? What are you doing to increase your social capital and to improve your value within the community?

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Not WHY?, But WHY! Libraries Are Needed


A comment to my January 27 Post Introducing: A 21st Century Library Model was of such important insight, that I felt it deserved a Post of its own. It is from a Gen X capitol city library director.

I think she has hit on the fundamental basis for establishing the library’s significance in the 21st Century, or any century. That is what the profession has been lacking – a proper explanation of the one fundamental issue on which we can base our indisputable need to exist. This may well be it. I have quoted her comment below (using some editorial license emphasizing particularly important points).

[Begin quote]
“My thought is this: part of [what] I think libraries problem is this vaguery that we attach to our purpose. I was reading on the IFLA [International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions] website and it stated; ‘The public library is a locally based service meeting the needs of the local community and operating within the context of that community.’

Seriously? What does that mean…how is that helpful? A service meeting WHAT needs? I mean, the sentence could be rewritten for the local butcher shop. “The Snyder Bro. Butcher Shop is a locally based service meeting the needs of the local community and operating within the context of that community.” It is about as useful and meaningful.

Nothing these days seems to say WHAT we do or what need we are fulfilling. Some days I feel like I am the only person still saying The purpose of the free public library is to create an informed citizenry that is capable of participating in self-governance. I thought that was what the American library was for. And, from THAT comes a whole lot of ways to provide that service and to define “What” an informed citizen is. As in, does access to the Sopranos TV show help you self govern? In my mind yes, because it allows you to participate in discussions based in popular culture that lead to communication and conversation about our society, culture, and way of life which ultimately impacts our politics and how we govern ourselves.

At another place on the IFLA website it says: ‘The public library, the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision-making and cultural development of the individual and social groups.’ (IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto, 1994) Frankly I don’t agree. This mission makes us easily replaceable…which is really something we should avoid. I mean, in this definition you could replace public library with bookstore, Internet, social club, church group…you name it.

Now this statement (oddly also in IFLA–they seem to have some confusion on what they think the library is) is the best…but still not as clear and concise as the one I always use (which also makes us irreplaceable): ‘A public library is an organization established, supported and funded by the community, either through local, regional or national government or through some other form of community organization. It provides access to knowledge, information and works of the imagination through a range of resources and services and is equally available to all members of the community regardless of race, nationality, age, gender, religion, language, disability, economic and employment status and educational attainment.This one is [also] lacking because it doesn’t say WHY we do this…and THAT is the most crucial piece.

And, as a public library director I fight the constant battle with the politicians, the non-user taxpayers, the staff and frankly some days inside my own head of WHY do we do this…Are we still relevant? What is the point? And, when I consider the 21st century library, I still feel like the HOW needs grounding in the WHY.

During my MBA program they talked a lot about the sustainable business. A company that makes buggy whips or wagon wheels is going to be out of business in short order versus the business that makes accessories for things that transport people. If libraries want to last from century to century then we have to stay grounded in WHY we are unique and then HOW to provide the service in the current landscape. But don’t let the How overshadow the Why. NO ONE does what we do, IF you look at the free and equal access to information for all citizens to create a people capable of sustainable self-government. We take it for granted, but ours is a system dependant upon a populace capable of sustaining itself. The Roman republic only lasted 565 years…we are on year 235.”
[End quote]

If any additional justification for the Director’s argument is needed, it can be found in a quote from President James Madison in a letter written in 1822;
“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

In the Supreme Court case Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1, 438 U.S. 30-32 (1978) Justice Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion in which he quoted Madison:
“The preservation of a full and free flow of information to the general public has long been recognized as a core objective of the First Amendment to the Constitution. . . . In addition to safeguarding the right of one individual to receive what another elects to communicate, the First Amendment serves an essential societal function. Our system of self-government assumes the existence of an informed citizenry.” [Emphasis added.]

The reason libraries are needed is because it is a fundamental right of America’s citizens to have free access to information and knowledge.

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OCLC: Perceptions of Libraries 2010 Report


Good news? Not hardly!

OCLC’s Report to the Membership “Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community” is the latest in a series of such reports on OCLC’s efforts to “learn about the attitudes and habits of the emerging ‘online information consumer’.” Putting the study results in “Context”, OCLC announces;

Not only are Americans using the library and its many services more, they also see increased value of the library for themselves and for their communities. They agree—overwhelmingly—that librarians are valuable. And they believe—overwhelmingly—that libraries equal books.

I sincerely hope I’m not the only one who cringes at this statement, and the archaic perception it represents. That Americans are using their local library more because of the major recession is not news, or in the least bit surprising. But, Americans believe – “overwhelmingly – that libraries equal books.” Is that the perception librarians want their 21st Century customers to have – Libraries = Books? Talk about your damaging library stereotypes!

So, when the recession is past and even more people can afford that smartphone they have put off buying, who is going to be interested in pBooks at the library? When the economy recovers and people return to their normal habits of spending for entertainment, doing less job searching, going to amusement parks instead of the library, using Netflix, reading eBooks, etc., what is going to happen to that library use? This report provides only good news for the MOST shortsighted perspective imaginable.

Early in the report, authors presented their “Hot Spots” information from 2003, 2005 and 2007 as a prelude to their 2010 data. Their last bullet item was this vague, unsupported assertion.
Positive librarian perceptions impact library funding. The value of the librarian grew even stronger in 2010. This is good for funding. A high correlation exists between funding support for public libraries and positive librarian perceptions.” (Source: From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America OCLC, 2008.)

Again, OCLC seems not to recognize the contradictions in their information. The 2008 reference of funding support, based on information collected in 2007, is useless in 2011. Pre- and During- Recession data is totally unrelated. Not to mention, their own referenced 2008 report contains totally contradictory information to this 2010 assertion!

When asked to indicate which of a number of public services they would agree to fund through an increase in local taxes, most elected officials indicated a higher likelihood to support funding initiatives for the fire department, public schools and police department than for the public library. …
1. Most people claim they would support the library at the ballot box—fewer are firmly committed to it.
2. There is a lot that people don’t know about their public library.
3. Library support is only marginally related to visitation. Advocating for library support to library users focuses effort and energy on the wrong target group.
(Pg 1-6) [Emphasis added.]

Undaunted, the authors continue to paint in the most positive terms, the bleakest outlook for libraries.

Libraries in the technology landscape
The technology landscape that continues to empower information consumers has set new expectations for library users. Libraries are responding by offering new services and by joining the online social networks used by their information consumers. Eleven percent (11%) of larger U.S. public libraries have a Facebook site (ALA, April 2010). A search conducted in January 2011 identified more than 15,700 Facebook URLs that include the word “library.” Libraries also have a growing presence on social media sites. In 2007, a YouTube search found 25,700 videos that included “library,” “libraries” or “librarians.” In January 2011, that number has rocketed to 1,010,000 videos, a 3,830% increase.

Apparently David Letterman’s “Bush Library Top Ten” counts as positive growth of libraries on YouTube, as do Mr. Bean Extras – “Library & Bus Stop”, and Jack Vale “Farting In The Library”. Seriously? This is the kind of research OCLC is using to support their assertions of a brilliant outlook for our libraries?

Libraries provide vital technology services to their users both outside and inside the library. Libraries are delivering services to their increasingly mobile communities by offering mobile connections to their Web sites and catalogs. Some are offering mobile ask-a-question services via text messaging. According to an October 2010 survey conducted by Library Journal, 44% of academic libraries and 34% of public libraries offer some type of mobile services.

Libraries are playing a central and increasingly critical role as technology providers for American information consumers.
(Pg 15) [Emphasis added.]

SERIOUSLY? Based on what standard? Providing wireless Internet access? Some type of mobile services? GET REAL! Wi-Fi and Apps are EVERYWHERE!! ALL of the major telecommunications service providers are killing libraries with SMARTPHONES! Apps are pulling library customers AWAY by the millions with their information providing services!

Technology growth is exponential – but not in the library. (Pg 11)

Social networking use is exponential – but not in the library. (Pg 12)

Smartphone sales are through the roof – but not being used by the library. (Pg 13)

eBook use is growing exponentially – but not in the library – while Google makes digital libraries available to every person on earth. (Pg 14)

Page 28 has some really discouraging data.

Technology at the library empowers Americans who have increased their library use …
• Borrowing books, CDs, DVDs, etc., more often
Economically Impacted = 91% Not Impacted = 79%
• Accessing the Internet for free more often
Economically Impacted = 35% Not Impacted = 14%
• Reading magazines more often
Economically Impacted = 29% Not Impacted = 23%
• Using the computer more often
Economically Impacted = 28% Not Impacted = 12%
• Accessing the free Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) more often
Economically Impacted = 24% Not Impacted = 9%

Economically impacted Americans are reading more magazines at the library than they are using the computers, or even accessing Wi-Fi. When the recession is over, where is the good news for 21st Century libraries in this report?
OCLC EXPECTS US ALL TO ACCEPT THAT LIBRARIES TRULY ARE ALL ABOUT BOOKS?

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A “Perfect Storm” Is Battering Libraries


“The Perfect Storm” phrase has become popular to describe a convergence of conditions that cause maximum destruction of whatever. It was popularized after the 1997 book by the same name by Sebastian Junger that described unique weather conditions that combined to create a deadly Nor’easter in October 1991 whose damage totaled $208 million with a confirmed death toll of twelve. Now whenever conditions appear similarly disastrous for something, it is referred to as a “perfect storm”. For example;

  • The Perfect Storm That Could Drown the Economy (NY Times, 2005)

    Poll Finds a ‘Perfect Storm’ of Voter Distrust in Government

    The Perfect Storm – Today’s economy creates favorable conditions for sale-leaseback sellers.

    Transport secretary says sorry after chaos of Scotland’s ‘perfect storm’

    Has the NCAA set the conditions for the Perfect Storm?

    Public Consulting Group Research – How to Avoid the Perfect Storm

    Pension Plan Sponsors Looking for Funding Relief from “Perfect Storm” Conditions

  • IMHO, there are “perfect storm” conditions at the front doors of libraries, threatening to devastate them.

    Technology – Advances in technology are faster than librarians can learn. When they do learn to use the technology, it takes time, talent and funds to apply them to a real world issue regarding library services to 21st Century customers. Technology is a bullet train with no stops that is affecting decisions regarding both services and collections.

    Customers – Changes in customers’ behavior are creating vastly diverse and somewhat unpredictable demands for library services. Technology literacy levels among library customers are vastly different and constantly evolving. Digital Native customers and Digital Fugitive customers are at opposite ends of the customer service spectrum, but both deserve excellent library services.

    Economy – The depressed economy that began two years ago has impacted library funding dramatically. No library system is immune to funding cuts, no matter how excellent the service or community support. Non-existent tax revenues can not fund libraries at the old levels, and trying to improve services and technology is nearly impossible with reduced funds that often are insufficient to even keep the doors open as long as before.

    Relevance – Due to all the other economic and day-to-day issues that also batter individuals, library supporters are disinterested in the survival of their local library. Too often librarians hear that dreaded question – “Why Are Libraries Needed?” Libraries are no longer the sacred cow that is untouchable, but merely another public service agency funded by diminished tax dollars that must fight to have its value to the community recognized.

    Library’s Role – Unfortunately, when external influences impact the librarian profession what usually happens is a procrastinated debate over the age-old issue – “What is the role of the library?” Some contend that the library’s role has never and will never change – providing equal access to uncensored information. Others contend that commercial organizations are far exceeding the library’s ability to fulfill that role, so libraries must adapt and re-invent themselves in order to remain relevant to their community. The uncertainty within the profession fosters no decisions, no actions and no direction, which results in the further devaluing of the library’s role.

    Library Education – Academia is slow to adopt new theories and techniques to incorporate into cutting edge curriculum for the profession. Therefore, librarianship education is well behind where it should be to provide MLS graduates with the latest strategies for implementing technology in library services, thus prolonging the lack of change and evolution within the profession.

    This “perfect storm” of combined external factors contributes to create a disastrous environment for libraries. Libraries are being battered and torn by these factors almost to the point of destruction. If one considers all the branch closings and cut backs in staff, services and hours, and for-profit companies managing public libraries, then the storm damage is severe. A forecast for better conditions is not in the near future.

    The reality is that in order to withstand the “perfect storm” that is attacking libraries, one should have boarded the windows (figuratively, not literally), stocked up on emergency supplies, and definitely learned how to swim.

    In other words, the solution to surviving this storm was in recognizing that it was coming, but very few did. Unfortunately, no early warning system existed (although in hindsight it definitely should). Libraries have to find their safe harbor – their niche in their community – and apply every safety measure they can find (technology, business acumen, innovative librarianship, advocacy, etc.) to weather this “perfect storm”.

    When the storm passes, will your library still be standing, or will it have to be rebuilt? Will your community have the desire and resources to rebuild? Will your community have confidence in you to rebuild, or will they question whether your inability to save the library was part of the problem?

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