And so the library evolves

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What does this photograph and this beach at Asilomar have to do with libraries, you might ask?  It’s from a place that I find irresistible.  Taken during a conference I find irresistible–a conference that keeps me coming back for more.

Ever since Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson wrote their intriguing article in School Library Journal, I’ve been pondering what the 21st century school library can or does look like.

In listening from afar in to the keynote address at Internet Librarian West (brilliantly entitled “Libraries of the Future: Places of Desire”) by NYPL librarian Paul Holdengraber  I heard him give the key answer to my question–that he wants libraries to be irresistible.

And that’s all you could want for a school library–for it to be irresistible to the students and teachers you have at your campus–whether that means read-alouds, book groups, online presence, twittering, facebooking, gaming events, a beautiful space, etc.–whatever the means, the end goal is making the library an irresistible learning hub.

And it’s not just because that will help us be more viable, or help us “survive” budget cuts–or any of those fear-based things.  It’s because it’s what we are here for.  We’re here to offer services in the best way we can that invite our customers/students in and engage them in learning and creating.

Rereading Chris Brogan’s much commented upon post about services public libraries offer, he pushes the envelope for public library services, like offering geotagging of sites outside the library, for example.  Many readers chimed in with their ideas, praise, kudos, or wishes for their libraries.

At Internet Librarian West today, I followed tweets discussing ways to take libraries mobile.  I wondered afterwards why our vendors couldn’t design  iphone apps for our services that we could offer to students.  I heard David Lee King talk about using meebo chat or other tools for instant communication with customers(and on the spot, I decided to set up my own library twitter account so I could be “tweeted” questions, though I don’t know how many students are really on twitter yet.)

While I love trying these tools, I wonder how many of these services would get used by high school students–?  And I think the answer is, it depends.  It depends on what we build in terms of relationship with our students–how “living” a presence our library sites are for our students, and how well we promote what we do/offer.  Marketing is a big part of our role.

Some teachers I talk with are reluctant to share online because they feel that perhaps they are ‘tooting their own horn.”  But coming from a library perspective, I tend to think of it more as marketing.  We are marketing to our customers, who are students and teachers in our building and beyond our building.  We are not only marketing our own services but the idea that libraries are helpful places with helpful and creative people.

We always need to be mindful the core idea of making our very space/staff/services ‘irresistible’ to our users, whatever tools we use to do so.  We need to know our students and what “floats their boat” so to speak. (And we need to know the same about our teachers–how to reach them, and what “floats their boats” as well.)

As Bodanger asked in his keynote, ‘What if  librarians thought their role was to oxygenate the library?’  That, to me, is the evolution of the 21st century library–an oxygenated library.  And one that, like that beach in my photograph, keeps our students coming back.

3 thoughts on “And so the library evolves

  1. You had posted a question in a previous blog post asking about what libraries can do to change. I had meant to post a response there but I….forgot.

    I like the ideas of mobility and offering applications for them to use to extend services beyond the multi-walled library. But I also believe that the library is still that quiet sanctuary of study.

    Sure, you can offer breakout rooms for collaboration. But what about the opportunity to be a place of silence. A place without cell phone interruptions or even texting.

    I remember the university I attended (Abilene Christian University) having quiet rooms in the middle of buildings for quiet reflection time. Each room was completely silent with a real stillness to them that was almost palpable.

    The one sound you could hear in the room was the fountain hidden in the cluster of quiet. It was amazing how the silence in the room allowed for quiet meditation, prayer, reflection, or filling out one of the journals left in each room. The journals allowed you to anonymously post your own prayers, poetry, or even a rant.

    I think libraries need to look at enabling an area for quiet and being still. Everywhere else, we are bombarded with information and decision-making. Everywhere else there is sound and banter and people asking us for things.
    In quiet, there is just you.

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