Tag Archives: Values

Passing the Torch


I have been blogging about 21st Century Library since January 2010. Some say that’s a long time for a blog. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4&1/2 years, but I do feel as though I have run my course and written virtually everything that I have to write about the “21st Century Library” and 21st Century Librarians.

It is a topic that will never be fully explored, reviewed or discussed, because as much as we engage in the topic it will evolve, even while we converse, into whatever we envision it to be, which creates a new conversation about the new role of librarianship.

One of my earlier positions on change within the librarianship profession I wrote in February 2011 in Discontinuous Thinking;

Charles Handy based the title of his book THE Age OF UNREASON on George Bernard Shaw’s observation that “all progress depends on the unreasonable man. His argument was that the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, while the unreasonable [person] persists in trying to adapt the world to himself; therefore for any change of consequence we must look to the unreasonable man, or, I must add, to the unreasonable woman.” [Emphasis added.]

While in Shaw’s day, perhaps, most men were reasonable, we are now entering an Age of Unreason, when the future, in so many areas, is there to be shaped, by us and for us – a time when the only prediction that will hold true is that no predictions will hold true; a time, therefore, for bold imaginings in private life as well as public, for thinking the unlikely and doing the unreasonable.

My point being that librarians need to adapt the library to serve the new environment that society has created for its consumption of information. We need to better understand the real business that libraries are in, and librarians must discard the old stereotype of the library and librarianship and replace it with whatever works in the community that their library serves.

This should not be interpreted to mean that I endorse librarians shaping their community for the better, because our role is to serve. Simply serve the information needs of our community. Librarians do not establish what those needs are, they figure out what those needs are and satisfy them. The vacuum created by the uncertainty, evolution, or revolution, of the role of librarians within the community allows many misdirections in seeking that role, but the guiding principle is always service! If the new role does not fit the concept of service, then it isn’t the correct role.

Having stated all this, I will be stepping aside as the blogger of 21st Century Library Blog to allow a better mind than mine to direct the conversation about that new role of librarianship. Many times I have referred to my “good friend urban library director” in posts because I found many ideas and words of wisdom in her writing. She has agreed to take up the challenge of contributing to this conversation, partly because she has lots of ideas and things to write, and partly because she is my daughter, who was a librarian before I was.

Director Kimberly Matthews, Trenton (NJ) Free Public Library, has agreed to step in as the new blogger for 21st Century Library Blog. I have every confidence that you readers will find her writing more thought provoking, engaging with a very “practice” orientation, and even amusing.

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to present this forum and hopefully contribute to this worthwhile conversation. Thank you all for your support.

“21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries”

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

ALA’s Vision for the Library’s Future is Not Even Its Own


The Libraries Transforming Communities vision is not even a vision that ALA created. It appears to be a vision adopted from one of The Harwood Institute’s programs with whom ALA is partnering to transform America’s libraries. What were they thinking? Obviously grasping at straws, but buying magic beans? SERIOUSLY?

ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report 2014 includes a disturbing revelation that has actually been brewing for a couple of years, and is well along the way to indoctrinating new librarians. The Executive Summary espouses a vision of the library’s future, if you follow all the links to the source.

The ALA has made transformation a top priority. As libraries continue to transform in 2014, they deepen engagement with their communities in many ways, addressing current social, economic, and environmental issues, often through partnerships with governments and other organizations. Moving forward from being providers of books and information, public libraries now respond to a wide range of ongoing and emerging needs.

That “transformation” link goes to another article about ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), “groundbreaking libraries-as-change-agents initiative.” Read that again. Libraries-as-change-agents!

Through LTC, ALA will help the public library profession become more focused on and skilled at convening aspirational community conversations and more innovative in transforming internal practice to support fulfillment of community aspirations, and ALA will mirror that change internally, in its own processes. This work will help librarians become more reflective of and connected to their communities. It will help libraries to build stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations. It will yield greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health, and well-being.

ALA is working with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to develop and provide training opportunities and learning resources to support community engagement and innovation. The Harwood Institute has a vision of “turning outward” that emphasizes shifting the institutional and professional orientation of libraries and librarians from internal to external.

Libraries Transforming Communities is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. [BTW: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped make EDGE Benchmarks possible.]

Professor R. David Lankes and Barbara Stripling presented a webinar on March 8, 2012 “designed to stimulate conversation about harnessing the evolving role of libraries and strengthening the librarian’s voice to help shape community perception.” Barbara Stripling was Co-Chair of ALA (now Ex-) President Molly Raphael’s Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities task force, and is now ALA President for 2013-2014.

When Professor Lankes published “The Atlas of New Librarianship” in 2011 it was the greatest thing since sliced bread in library circles. Unfortunately, librarians were not reading it closely and really understanding what Lankes advocated. My critique was not so accepting of his advocacy of radical social activism. (Book Review: R. David Lankes – The Atlas of New Librarianship and Final Review: The Atlas of New Librarianship) To repeat my original critique; I was still hoping for something practical and useful in “The Atlas” when I came to the Knowledge section in the Facilitating Thread (which includes access, knowledge, environment, and motivation) where Lankes begins to develop the foundation for an argument in favor of all kinds of literacy. When I read it, I was shocked and appalled at the ideas he was advocating for librarians.

For librarians “To be ‘literate in’ means to be able to use something to gain power.” (pg. 75) Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? Unfortunately, YES! Lankes then continued on down a path I could not have imagined, and hopefully, neither could the vast majority of professional librarians. The lengthy quote that follows is essential not to break context and to fully understand the role he advocates for librarians. The role that ALA has adopted and is now advocating through The Harwood Institute.

Librarians can impart all the instruction they want on how to search and evaluate sources, but if we don’t also facilitate the knowledge of transforming all of that new knowledge into an effective conversation …, we have created a closed loop with limited benefit to the community in general. So information literacy must include the idea of conversation literacy. Indeed, concepts of new librarianship call for a host of expansions in all sorts of literacy.

… Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a handbook written by a far left radical during the unrest of the 1960s … is a fascinating read.

What I want to point out, however, is Alinsky’s take on the word “power.”

    There are a number of fundamental reasons for rejecting such substitutions [for the use of the word power]. First, by using combinations of words such as “harnessing the energy” instead of the single word “power,” we begin to dilute the meaning; and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life.


Power is not bad or evil. Alinsky would say the evil is when you don’t have power. Without power you don’t make decisions, things are decided for you. Librarians need to be powerful. They need to be able to shape agendas, lead the community, and empower members to do the same. We seek out power not as an end but as a means to make the world a better place. To serve, to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.

Why this trip through radicalism and political protest? Because it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship. If we see the role of librarians as supplementing other educational processes (teaching reading in schools or literacy organizations, or supporting parents), then literacy is a somewhat limited concept. …

However, if we look at literacy as empowerment, literally to gain power, then we have a different take on literacy altogether. Librarians, I would agree, need to view literacy as a means of acquiring power – more often than not, power for the powerless. (pg. 74) [Emphasis added.]

Lankes admits that he is trying to shape ALA’s vision of the librarians role as social activist. His mission statement for New Librarianship reads; “The Mission of Librarians is to Improve Society….” He actually justifies his “trip through radicalism and political protest” because “it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship.” SERIOUSLY? Since when does radicalism or political protest have any place in librarianship? And, he also advocates that librarians “seek out power … to make the world a better place. … to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.” is arguably the most arrogant attitude any profession could conceive. Then couple that power with Lankes’ idea that librarians should be present for ALL knowledge creation within the community and you have what sounds like something that is certainly not librarianship!

Now, what exactly is ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative that they are partnering with The Harwood Institute to sell to librarians? Harwood’s “Turning Outward” states;

Turning Outward makes the community and the people the reference point for getting things done.

Turning Outward impacts:

1) Engagement – Shifting who you see and include in your work and how you engage with them to create change.

2) Partners – Helping you gain clarity about the partners you need to move forward – and those that are holding you back.

3) Priorities – By understanding what space you occupy within the community, you no longer struggle to be all things to all people. Instead, you focus on what you can and should impact.

4) Strategies — How you develop and implement strategies that reflect the context of your community and people’s shared aspirations – and not to get so entangled in programs and activities.

5) Communications – Reframing how you talk about your work and impact, so that it is relevant to people and their concerns – and how you can contribute to a more productive community narrative.

6) Organizational Culture – By Turning Outward you can align and drive internal efforts around shared aspirations and shared language, which makes it easier to work across departments and get things done.
[Emphasis added.]

Sprinkled throughout their six-point approach to transforming librarianship are innuendos that are contradictory to everything that libraries stand for. Changing who we include in our work so that we can change society? Aren’t libraries supposed to be all-inclusive? And change society into what? Into some librarians idea of what their community should be? Only partner with organizations that can help the library and avoid any that might “hold you back”? And, who might those organizations be that would hold back the library from serving ALL the citizens within their community? We should no longer struggle to be all things to all people? SERIOUSLY? So libraries should only serve some select tax payers, and ignore the interests of ALL its taxpayers? And, by all means let’s STOP getting entangled in programs and activities!

What in the name of S.R. Ranganathan has gotten into ALA? Since when has librarianship been about radical activism, or totally focused on “changing society”? Since when has librarianship been about gaining power in the community and deciding what improvement society needs? Since when has librarianship been about exclusivity?

If this is where 21st Century librarianship is headed, I want no part of it. I will not be the librarian that ALA’s visions and programs are espousing. I will not impose my personal biases (and don’t think for one second that you don’t have any, because everyone has them) on my community and judge what improvements it needs. Especially not when it is paying my salary to serve it.

If ALA has any perception that librarianship is lacking a clear identity, then they are clearly clueless about what it should be. In fact, they are so clueless that they are willing to buy some program from The Harwood Institute and adopt Professor Lankes’ New Librarianship, both approaches that will surely destroy any resemblance of what librarianship is in favor of creating a library workforce intent on changing the world. Change the world to what?

19 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Librarian’s Role in the “The Battel of the Books(‘ Readers)”


Do you remember Jonathan Swift’s account of “the terrible Fight that happened on Friday last between the Antient and Modern Books” in St. James’s Library? That was last Friday some month in 1697, but it could easily have been an account of the biblio-fisticuffs between Antients and Moderns any day on the Web in the last twenty years or so.

Jonathan Swift 1704

Jonathan Swift 1704

As in Swift’s day, our Antients and Moderns come in several stripes: Textbook Antients and MOOC Moderns, Printed Antients and Kindled Moderns, Copyright Antients and Open Access Moderns and so on. One stripe to have taken the field recently is the humblest of the lot but nonetheless passionate: the Antient and Modern Readers, that is you, Dear Reader, not the e-reading device. Were you aware of this pugilism by proxy on your behalf across the expanse of the Internet? No? Then, … allow me to provide you with “a full and true account” of the actions of certain of your avatars. ….”


If you are a lover of books and reading, I strongly encourage you to read the entire thought provoking article at “The Battel of the Books(‘ Readers)”

What is our role as 21st Century Librarians in this future of “reading“?

Or, is being a librarian only about ACCESS?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Librarianship Truisms


Truisms? Those are the ideas and concepts that are perpetually true, regardless of circumstances or time.

1.
My most favorite “truism” which I learned many years ago is that: “Theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind.” [Kidd, J. R. (1973). How Adults Learn. New York: Association Press.] In other words, a library science degree alone is not enough to be successful, or even competent, as a 21st Century Librarian. Today’s librarians require additional skills, most of which won’t be taught in Schools of Information Science. [Read Multidisciplinary – A New 21st Century Librarianship Skill]

2.
It seems a no-brainer that librarianship is THE foundation of any library model, regardless of when it exists whether 19th Century or 21st Century. So, to say that “21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries” is a truism at the heart of 21st Century libraries may seem like another serious no-brainer. But, no one should hope to create a 21st Century Library without first being staffed with 21st Century Librarians. [Read Librarianship Is The Foundation]

3.
If something is worth doing it’s worth doing well – in the case of 21st Century Librarianship – it’s worth doing excellently! That’s what it will require in order for the institution of the library to survive, transform, and reinvent itself into the relevant institution that every community needs. Yes, every community NEEDS A LIBRARY, so….. “Go Big or Go Home!” is another librarianship truism. It’s far past time for visionary leadership and 21st Century librarianship. In the future there is no place for the timid librarian. [Read Go Big or Go Home!]

4.
This truism came from Usher when he accepted his Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist award at last year’s AMA Music Awards Ceremony. Referring to his entire team of collaborators, musicians, supporters, etc. he made a fairly profound statement by recognizing that no individual achieves success alone. And, as artists are prone to do, he did it poetically – “Team work makes dreams work.” The same truism applies to your library’s dreams. Your library team will make your library’s dreams a reality. One leader, no matter how capable or inspiring, cannot achieve a highly successful library for their community by their self alone. It requires every single person within the organization, as well as outside supporters, to achieve the kind of success required for the 21st Century Library to evolve and flourish. [Read “Team Work Makes Dreams Work”]

5.
“Actions speak louder than words.” is a truism that is often applied in any context, but it is especially true regarding librarianship because if you create that ideal 21st Century Library through actions, you will have very little need of words of advocacy or advertisement. Other people will do that for you. The other old truism of “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your doorstep.” is also applicable in building a 21st Century Library. When the library is the best thing in town for information access, maker space, gaming, collaborative environment, or whatever your community needs most, people will beat a path to your library door. [Read Perception 3 – Millennial Thinking]

What truisms do you know that apply to 21st Century Librarianship?

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Top Ten Traits of Great Library Leaders


As we approach the end of 2012, I thought I’d get back to my theme for the year – Library Leadership. In order to be a great leader, a person must possess and demonstrate certain characteristics, or traits of leadership. Here are 10 that should be at the top of anyone’s list who is striving to become a great library leader.

I have written before about library leaders needing to be visionary (Being “The Library” Again, Many 21st Century Library Directors Are NOT Librarians, and Go Big or Go Home!). That point can not be over emphasized. In today’s environment of constant change causing an ambiguous future, leaders must be able to create a vision and then share that vision with every member of their library. They must be able to persuade, teach, mentor, coach and “by force of example, talents, and/or qualities of character” play the primary directing role in the library while enlisting followers to make the dream a reality.

10. Great Leaders Do Not Do It Alone
Whenever someone thinks one member of the team is a super star, it’s best to remember that EVERY true leader requires followers, and not just followers, but individuals who can and will comprise a team. The most heavy lifting is done by a team. The best work is accomplished by a team that believes in the library and owns the vision. I suspect that life has shown us all that although we like to think we’re indispensable, once we’ve left an organization, life goes on and work continues in whatever new direction it will, doing quite well without us.

“There is no indispensable man.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

9. Great Leaders Express Gratitude
A great leader will never miss the opportunity to show appreciation for someone’s efforts, and successes. The power of appreciation is strong, and as noted below, can be a strong motivator. Studies have shown that the number one reason why people leave an organization is lack of appreciation. It’s not money, it’s failure on the part of the leader to make the employee feel valued and recognized for the work they do. Criticism seems to be the easiest thing in the world to give, but encouragement is something a great leader does not have to work at doing.

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” William Arthur Ward

8. Great Leaders Understand Motivation
What motivates you? Probably many things, including a belief in what you do as something worth doing. Money? Sociologists suggest that money is not a motivator, but lack of it can be a de-motivator. Praise? Everyone likes praise, unless they believe it is given without sincerity. Hope? Concerning working in a library, the best motivation is the intrinsic value of the work itself. Great leaders recognize each employee’s motivators and tries to ensure that they fulfill those for all employees. Motivation takes many forms.

People work well when they believe they are good at what they do. Unknown

7. Great Leaders Delegate and Empower
Delegation is not the same as empowerment. Delegating authority to accomplish a job is routine and generally pertains to the specifics of that job. Empowerment means giving employees the authority to step outside their specific job duties to enable them to accomplish other tasks that are at the core of the organization’s values. For example, it would not be considered normal for a cataloger to be empowered to take steps to ensure the highest quality customer service. That is generally reserved to reference staff and youth services librarians and others who deal directly with the customer. But why shouldn’t every employee of the library be empowered to ensure that every customer is totally satisfied with their experience at the library in every respect? Great leaders not only delegate, but empower everyone to make the library more than it can ever be without their contributions.

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Bill Gates

6. Great Leaders Are Learners
It has been relatively recent, maybe 20 years at most, that business and most other public endeavors have encouraged life-long learning as an important factor of success in today’s society. With the proliferation of technology our society has transitioned to a ‘trial and error’ method of learning. We learn to use technology by playing with it, using it to do whatever we think it will do, and learning how to make it work. However, the great leader is an active learner, seeking professional development opportunities, listening to people, especially employees, and assimilating knowledge for the purpose of becoming a better decision maker, and a better leader.

“Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.” Alvin Toffler

5. Great Leaders Are Problem Solvers
Understanding the problem is essential to solving the problem. Identifying the problem correctly helps one narrow it to the point of being able to solve it, because we can usually see the solution if we can grasp the problem. How often have we heard something like – ‘That’s great, but you solved the wrong problem.’ – whether it was regarding a school math question, or taking care of business? Understanding the problem correctly is the key to solving any problem. And, here we see again, one of the qualities of leadership is solving problems before they get totally out of hand. Combine responsibility with problem solving and great leaders get things done!

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” Arnold H. Glasow

4. Great Leaders Are Decision Makers
How often have you been faced with a problem that needed solving, but you either weren’t sure how to tackle it, or didn’t think you had time to tackle it right then, or for whatever reason just put it off. What usually happens? The problem gets worse. It never fails. Problems do not fix themselves, regardless of what some people say. It is true that ‘No decision is a decision.’ If you put something off long enough circumstances will decide for you, and often times that decision is not a desirable one. Life’s experience has shown most of us to address problems as soon as they are recognized, to prevent them from becoming much bigger, and to solve them sooner rather than later. Great leaders just do it!

“To reach port we must sail, sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it – but we must sail, not drift or lie at anchor.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

3. Great Leaders Take Responsibility
Responsibility is a fundamental human trait that allows organizations to function. Individuals who recognize a responsibility to do their best, as well as see what needs to be done and take responsibility to get it done, are the life’s blood of any library. Having a sense of responsibility motivates people to do the right things, it is the cause of much of the world’s successes, and lack of it the cause of much of the world’s problems. A great leader takes responsibility for everything his/her library does, or fails to do. No IF’s, AND’s or BUT’s about it. The buck stops at the library director’s desk.

“I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.” John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

2. Great Leaders Are Visionary
We all know that Jules Vern was a highly imaginative guy. But my bet is he took a few ideas from Leonardo De Vinci – the guy who envisioned the helicopter and parachute – in the middle ages. I think Walt Disney must have taken after them to create his magical kingdoms, and so many others must have also had vision to be able to create monumental dams and bridges, space ships, computers, artificial limbs, and medical marvels of all kinds. I suspect Vern was hoping that someone would achieve and make real what he only dreamed, and they did. A great leader has the vision that, with his/her leadership ability, will influence others to make real.

“Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” Jules Verne

1. Great Leaders Have High Character
Think about a situation in which you knew you could do something and no one would EVER know about it if you didn’t tell. Good or bad, doesn’t matter, your actions would never be found out. There would be no evidence of your actions linked to you. There would be no repercussions to you or anyone you knew. That’s not to say that your actions would have no impact on anyone, actions always have impact on someone or something, just no one you know who could trace your actions back to you. What would you do? The answer to this question is what constitutes a person’s character.

“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” Thomas Macaulay

Library leaders should be striving to be “great” leaders. It’s what the profession needs to flourish in the ambiguous future and regain the library’s relevance in the community. It is what’s needed for survival.

______________________________________________________________________________

The idea for this post was taken from an article by New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Shep Hyken.

16 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

“Librarian” or “Book-Lover”


It recently struck me that librarianship, like so many professions, is a continuum from basic fundamental skills and enthusiasm, to highly developed skills/knowledge and service/dedication. I have never known nor heard of anyone entering the librarian profession who was not first a lover of books. Isn’t that where it all begins? Have you ever known anyone who said; “I think I’ll become a librarian because I want to serve the public, regardless in what capacity.” or “I think I’ll become a librarian because it pays so well, and has such incredible prestige.” If you have, let me know.

A continuum begins with the very basics of the concept, or profession in this case and builds toward the very best ideals and practice of the profession. As one begins their career, they begin with basic skills and knowledge and acquire more skills and knowledge, as well as the dedication and professionalism that come with maturation within the profession. That’s just the way life works, assuming that the person has the capacity, desire and opportunity to progress along that continuum.

Unfortunately, in the librarian profession we have some who have been in the profession for many years, but have stagnated at the “book-lover” level. That’s all they’ve ever wanted to be, and they are perfectly happy to be just that and let their career progression end there. They are more interested in books than serving the public. They are more interested in their self-perception as a librarian, than in any recognition from their peers or profession as a “librarian,” or any professional standards. They simply want to be among their beloved books and be allowed to enjoy their surroundings.

At the opposite end of the continuum is the professional librarian. Interested in learning all there is to know about the profession. Dedicated to making the profession all it can be, as well as ensuring that it survives in the 21st Century environment of drastic change. They are those who lead the profession into that uncertain future. The professional librarian helps the profession grow and remain relevant.

I firmly believe that the professional librarian striving to achieve the pinnacle of the profession will become knowledgeable in these following areas, and numerous others that they don’t teach in library school.
• Business Acumen
• Cloud Computing
• Crowdsourcing
• Customer Targeting
• Digital Discovery
• Discontinuous Thinking
• Gaming
• Likenomics
• Open Innovation
• Planned Abandonment
• Social Networking
• Subject Matter Expert in Community

Only when a person arrives at this skill and knowledge level along with the service and professionalism can they consider that they have reached the high end of the continuum as a “librarian.” That is where the 21st Century librarian is found.>/b>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On this Veterans Day, my deeply heartfelt THANK YOU to all the men and women serving in our military forces, and to all those who have served our nation in uniform ever, as well as their families who support their service. THANK YOU ALL!


5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Perception of Your Library


No doubt most Americans are watching the presidential election events pretty closely. Commentators and those involved claim it is the dirtiest and most lie-filled campaign in history. Every news and media organization is conducting polls to figure out what Americans think, believe and feel about candidates and issues. Generally, the polls are in contradiction to what most commentators are saying about the candidates and voters.

Even though the results of this presidential election are significant for every American, and regardless of which side one happens to be on, it is very evident that people believe what they believe no matter what “facts” media and commentators – and even candidates – claim to be the “truth.” Everyone has their own version of the truth, and in some cases they may both be right – they’re just talking apples and oranges. If this situation doesn’t prove that old adage that Perception is Reality, I don’t know what would. That’s just the way people are!

My point? Have you taken time to consider your community’s perception of its [your] library? Does it fit with your reality as you perceive the library? Do you even know your community’s perception of your library? When was the last time you asked your customers what they thought of their library – from an overall perspective?

Librarians tend to survey customers about specific programs or services, but do we ask what they think or feel when they think of The Library? Is that even important? I think it is highly important and extremely relevant to know your library’s standing within your community. It has everything to do with support, participation, funding, and especially relevance to the community – that paramount perception that determines your survival.

Let’s look at this situation from extremes. I find that considering the worst and best case scenarios often clarifies the issues related to a question.

Worst Case: You conduct a survey of every citizen in your community [just for the sake of this illustration], so there are no sampling errors and nothing to dispute the results. Those results reveal that 50% of residents don’t even know where the library is located. Another 40% indicate that they have never used the library – for anything. The final 10% respond that they’ve had better libraries in other places they’ve lived. OUCH! Those results would hurt even the most thick-skinned librarian. BUT, you know for a fact that the city council members know you, and you all think you’re doing a pretty good job.

So What? With results like this, how long do you think the community will continue to fund the library? Or maybe we should say – this library director. Citizens are the ones who elect their city council representatives. City and county councils fund those government agencies that can demonstrate they are making a difference with the money they are given. With all the problems communities face today, jurisdictions fund those agencies that are providing solutions, creating a better community in which people want to live, and presenting a show piece of which the community can be proud.

Best Case: Your survey of every citizen reveals that 90% of residents know where the library is located, and about 50% know its general hours of operation. About 45% respond that they use the library “regularly.” Only 10% indicate that they have never used the library – for anything. Finally, 30% respond that they’ve never had better library service anywhere they’ve lived. WOW! Who wouldn’t be proud of those results?

So What? With results like this, a library could feel confident that they are making a difference in their community. Jurisdictions continue to fund government agencies that demonstrate they are making a difference with the money they are given. They even give them more money to provide more solutions for the community, if they demonstrate they are within their capabilities. This agency is totally secure because they are creating a better community in which people want to live, and presenting a show piece of which the community is proud.

These two scenarios show the importance of community perception of the library. It is highly important to the library’s relevance to the community.

What is the community’s perception of your library?
Welcoming
Helpful
Cutting-edge
Knowledgeable
Innovative
Futuristic
Community Leader
“The Place”

In addition to my point that perception is reality when it comes to your community’s perception of its library, I further assert that your library will become a 21st Century Library when your community perceives that you are helping it become a 21st Century community. Perception can be even more important than fact.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized