After my last post, you may be asking "Well if you're so smart, where do you think libraries should be going?"
:) Like most library workers, I have an opinion about that and I like to be asked what it is!
I think the future of the library is as a community gathering place, like a gallery or coffeeshop, but better, because it's non-commercial and it belongs to everyone.
And if I were Queen of the Library, here's what I'd do to get us there:
1. Make the library buildings bright, well-lit, open-feeling spaces. Include lots of comfortable seating and workspaces.
2. Merchandising! Like a retail store, we're trying to get people to a) consume our product and b) think we are cool. We need eye-catching attractive displays, and ways to add interest to the uniformity of the stacks. Personally, I like libraries where I see bookstore-style shelving.
3. Designate certain areas as "quiet" or "silent," allowing the rest of the library to be a venue for conversation, meetings, or hanging out. I want people to feel like the library is a place where everyone is welcome.
4. Put a monthly or bi-monthly art exhibit in every library. It gives us some 'street cred' as a cultural venue, it gives us the opportunity to make connections with artists and their communities, and it gives people something new to look at every month. We could work with local artists associations, or with the high school art teachers. (Artist receptions are a must here. They wouldn't have to be fancy but we ought to have them.)
5. Actively fight the "strict, stuffy librarian" stereotype. Be generous about forgiving fines. NEVER act judgemental or accusing when it comes to overdue books. Be nice, be friendly, be approachable. Don't say "ssssh," don't lecture children.
6. Get a Facebook page, and start a blog. Let some personality slip into our public image! Approachability is the key.
7. Encourage volunteers - especially teens, but anyone. Give them other opportunities besides shelving picture books. Have a teen advisory council, have volunteer "computer mentor" sessions or volunteer computer lab attendants. Besides staff, volunteers are the group of people most likely to feel a sense of investment and ownership in the library, and we need that resource! We need people who care, who are willing to help. Let's let them save us.
8. Put a coffee shop in the library. That sounds really nice. (Yes, that also means we'll have to relax the food rules.)
9. Host interesting events. Particularly repeating events; give people a chance to "come every month." A repeating event can develop "a following," giving us the opportunity to work with these existing groups to generate buzz for future endeavors. For instance, your contacts from monthly art exhibits would be a huge help if you were to decide to host a large-scale art show and sale.
10. Create a "yes" mentality for projects and ideas, with the structure being 'bottom-up' rather than 'top-down.' As the new queen of the library, I'd create a clear and concise set of guidelines and directions, and within that give everyone lots of freedom. It's the people who stand on the front line every day who are the best source of information, ideas, and excitement. I want to encourage everyone to share their thoughts, share their excitement, and own their ideas. Anyone who wants to make something cool happen should have an avenue to do so.
So that's my take on the future of the library. I would actually love to hear some other opinions and other plans. What would you do if you were the King or Queen of the Library?
(Seriously, I love to talk about this, so what's your perspective?)