A recurring theme I have been picking up on lately, again, is change. This isn't really a note on change, but rather some musings on doing things differently, on trying something new, on asking why we do or don't do certain things. My family went out for lunch this weekend and as usual, my wife ordered what she always orders, and I tried something new. She is always satisfied with what she gets because she knows ahead of time that she likes it (unless they goof it up). I often try new things, and then sometimes regret what I get. We all get something and give something. I like the excitement of trying something new; my wife likes the comfort of no surprises!
Focus on Community
But really, I have been seeing a similar thought in lots of discussions lately. This month our consortium Board at DALNET discussed the Arizona State University whitepaper on The Future of the Academic Library Print Collection: A Space for Engagement. We have a mix of libraries but they all tend to have academic or research oriented collections. The paper is interesting because it talks about building purposeful print collections (rather than deep sixing all of them). But the take away from our Board discussion was that as we prepare to make changes we need to focus on what our community is looking for. Or even, how do we define or identify our community? That may mean asking ourselves some tough questions about who we are, what we do, and why we do things the way we always have.
It's no longer good enough to say that things are done how they should be done. We shouldn't cheat ourselves or our communities by settling in comfortably with established practices. How can libraries hold to our principles while meeting our communities where they are and providing the services they need and want?
Serving Our Audience?
Have you seen the trailer for The Public yet? Filmed at the Public Library of Cincinnati, the movie is a fictional account of homeless people taking over the library. In the trailer there is a clip of a homeless man asking about the library "When it gets this cold I don't know why they don't just let us stay here?" There are a million reasons why we might not, or even why we shouldn't offer such a service. But there can be reasons why we might, or why we maybe should. What if the community of a library needed an expansive shelter and the library could serve that need? For any difficult question we are faced with, we need to be open to exploring what is needed and what we can provide. We need to ask tough questions, even if some members of our community are afraid to seek the answers.
I am not sure what the intended audience of this film is, other than fans of Emilio Estevez, Alec Baldwin, and libraries. I'm also not sure if it will be any good or how it will affect the public perceptions of libraries, if at all. But I think we can already use it as a starting point for discussions about what we are doing and what we should be taking on.
How about the Tough Topics poster that has also been making the rounds? Many libraries may already have this poster up for their teen community. The poster, and various iterations of it, provides a list of tough topics for teens and the call number locations for those topics in the library. The poster itself is a powerful service offering teens the opportunity to investigate those tough topics on their own without asking someone else for help in locating the relevant resources. Providing information in a safe space for everyone in our community shouldn't be a change for us but we may need to find new ways to get our jobs done. Sometimes our work is tough, too, because even simple yet powerful things like posters can be challenged within our community.
So, lots to think on in our world of libraries. I hope you will all be part of what is going on. I guess all I am saying is Some Say, Some Do,