At this point, I’m sure everyone who reads this blog is aware of the opinion piece “Libraries are limited, obsolete” in the Lawrence, KS, Journal-World. The piece breaks my heart and angers my soul. But, honestly, talking about it in blogs doesn’t really do much good. (It’s not “strategic,” to quote Karen G. Schneider.) This isn’t really something library employees need to be talking about with each other, because none of us believe it. This is something we need to be talking about with library users, and more importantly with non-library users. Through word and deed, we need to show the Mark Hirscheys of the world that they’re wrong, show them that libraries are neither limited nor obsolete.
But what librarians can talk about with each other (as well as with our users) is how we can make sure libraries remain unlimited and relevant. Michael Stephens has made a great contribution to this conversation with his blog post “Ten Things I Know About Libraries in 2006.”
MPOW is working extremely hard to remain relevant and essential, and to bring our community in. Our Youth Services staff went nuts with outreach for our Summer Reading Program, visiting each and every school in our community (some of them multiple times) and standing outside of supermarkets and shopping centers. And we increased the number of participants in the program from last year by more than 75%! We just started four public blogs that allow for patrons to make comments and we’re working on a wiki that will do the same. I’m working with a coworker to develop a patootie-kickin’ curriculum for computer instruction, both introductory classes and more advanced classes on blogs and wikis. We’re looking into getting a Flickr account for the library, we’re using IM for professional communication (and for IM reference in the not-too-distant future), and, most importantly, we’re looking to our patrons when working on improving our collection development, our programming, and our general functionality. We’re getting better at keeping an eye on new trends and sharing our stories.
It’s a never-ending journey, but it’s not a journey we can afford to make quietly or alone. We need to publish our travelogues and invite our patrons to come along with us on this trip.
UPDATE: I just found out that Sarah Houghton-Jan (who also wrote eloquently about this, and I should’ve mentioned that above) and Michael Stephens have collaborated on a letter to the editor of the Journal-World. Hot diggity!