Thursday, December 15, 2011

Community Value

For years now we've all heard about how libraries are transforming into new 'spaces'. Not just books, or not just books and computers. Libraries have changed over and over again, and are often on the leading-edge of adopting new ideas and new technology, and in doing so are invaluable pieces of their communities.

However, while reading a report from Library Journal's (L J) latest Design Institute gathering, I came across some discussion which seems very relevant to the Chinook Arch member libraries: creating a community space, and its ties to political 'success'. To some extent, all libraries engage in this already. Libraries offer programs, events and services to the community, and funding for these items comes from the community. As with most things, though, taking the idea of being a community space a step or two further may yield positive results for the library.

Opinions from the LJ session suggested that turning the library into even more of a community space, one well-tailored to the community's various needs, will aid in navigating the 'political shoals' that librarians and library boards are often faced with when looking for funding:

Librarians who really have ways to gather intelligence about their communities are the ones who are succeeding,” Scherer said. “The space is getting more anonymous to allow for anything to happen, but the services are getting much more tailored.”

That tailoring is key to political success, said Joseph Huberty, a partner at Engberg Anderson. “I think that local emphasis, tailoring the project to meet the community’s needs, is essential. No one will vote for a project unless they perceive an underlying need,” he said.

"Intelligence" sounds a bit like spying, but what he's really talking about is simply knowing the community like most library managers do.

So, with this in mind, when considering your next round of budget negotiations with town or city council, or when looking for new sources of funding from the community, are there any ways your library can be transformed into a space (services, resources, etc.) that is more tailored to your community's needs than ever before? Session attendees suggest that one of the biggest factors is identifying needs, and making those needs clear to the people in charge.

Or, to put it another way: "I think that local emphasis, tailoring the project to meet the community’s needs, is essential. No one will vote for a project unless they perceive an underlying need,” he said."

However much you do this now, you may find that looking for more opportunity in this area can really cement the role of the library in the hearts and minds of the community and its leaders.

The whole Library Journal article can be read here:

http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/community/managinglibraries/891656-273/changing_spaces_exploring_future_user.html.csp

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