CLA Theme – Collaboration!

One of the most prominent themes at CLA this year was collaboration.  I haven’t attended previous conferences, so if this is a repetitive theme, I apologize – it’s new to me.  Either way, the idea is that the Library has a lot to offer to its community.  The services, programs, materials and, heck, even the building is there for the community.  All those things are there to make the community a better place, to educate the public, and entertain the masses.  Unfortunately, we can’t do it all.  Our funds are limited, and our staff can only keep so many balls in the air.  Other organizations and businesses are in the same boat.  So…  why not collaborate?

Collaboration really isn’t that new of a concept for most libraries.  They’ve always worked with schools to make sure that kids complete their assignments.  They’ve had guest performances and speakers in the past.  I think that the difference between then and now is the amount of collaboration we do and the way we do it.

Take job hunting, for instance.  There are a number of organizations out there that exist solely to help the unemployed find and keep a job.  Not only that, but they’re being funded by the government to do so.  But the sheer number of functionally illiterate people they have asking for help is astounding… and those organizations don’t have the means to educate that set of clients on that particular topic.

Then you look at the library.  The number of people who ask us for help filling out job applications is astonishing!   Many of them need more than the 1 hour of computer time they are allotted at my library.  Our resume writing and interview skills workshops are filled to capacity.  Our staff simply can’t provide any more programs than they already do.

If the libraries were to collaborate with the career/job hunting centers, both organizations would win.  The career centers could refer people for literacy assistance, and the library could refer people who need job placement assistance.  The library could even provide space for specialized workshops.

That’s the easiest example of a collaboration between the library and another organization.  Why not collaborate with a museum?  A local craft store? Arts council?  Other places?

It’s a way for you to stretch your already tight budget, provide additional services, and create tighter ties with other organizations in your community.

Outsourcing Collection Development

One of the optional readings for my Info & Society class dealt with the idea of outsourcing a library’s collection development.  This doesn’t necessarily mean sending the selection process overseas.  It simply means that a part (or the majority) of the collection development is performed by a company outside the library. (http://www.libraryjournal.com/index.asp?layout=articlePrint&articleID=CA6471081)

I can see how this idea came about, after all library budgets are continually shrinking, while the costs associated with developing and cataloging a collection are rising.  Libraries need to think creatively about ways they can cut costs while still maintaining a high level of customer service.  But is outsourcing collection development the answer? 

I don’t know if it is the answer for every library, but for a select few it may be the best thing since sliced bread.  Using an outside service for things like mass market paperbacks, popular fiction, and new-release dvds will free up a library’s collection development team and allow them focus on fine tuning the collection for the community.  The outside service might also help keep the library’s collection balanced, so that too much money isn’t spent on one topic or genre.

Unfortunately, outsourcing collection development might not work as well for some community libraries.  One librarian in the article noted that a “best seller” might not circulate very well at their library, while an obscure title will have a holds queue a mile long.  Another noted that Republican titles are very popular, but they can’t stock ONLY these titles because the library wouldn’t be representing the entire community.  These little nuances are something outside companies may not understand, which may frustrate a library and its community.

I believe that as these programs become easier to tailor, their use will probably rise.  Do you think that this is a good thing for libraries or their communities?  Why?

Poverty, Poor People, and Our Priorities

Poverty, Poor People, and Our Priorities is an article written by John Gehner for a periodical called Reference & User Services Quarterly. The article was published in the Winter 2005 issue.  It was assigned reading for Dr. Maret’s Information and Society class, taught at SJSU. Continue reading

Articles: Information and Society, Week 1 (Libr200)

This week I’ve read several interesting articles and book chapters about why libraries are important, what they do for the community, and why we shouldn’t worry that they’ll go away. 

[Ryan, J.C. (1999). The public library. Seven Wonders: Everyday Things for a Healthier Planet. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. 53-60.]
This chapter explained that by supporting a library, and using its resources, customers are saving the planet.  Every time they check out materials, the customer is reusing something they might have otherwise purchased new.  This is interesting, because such things as borrowing from your neighbors has fallen by the wayside, but borrowing from the library (or even the video rental store) is still as popular as ever.  “The Public Library” discusses why people use the library, and how we can get them to do more to reuse rather than buy new.

[Macintyre, B. (2004, December 18) Paradise is Paper, Vellum and Dust: Libraries will Survive the Digital Revolution because They are Places of Sensuality and Power. Times Online.]
Ben Macintyre explains that libraries will never disappear, even if Google succeeds with its quest to digitize all printed information.  Libraries are powerful and filled with knowledge.  There’s a spirituality to visiting the library, especially if it’s ancient.  However, libraries must evolve and actively attract new people; the internet should be the beginning rather than the end of the customer’s search.  If the library doesn’t try, it will lose its validity for today’s consumer and will only be thought of nostalgically.

Strong, G. Libraries empower people to participate in a civil society. Emerging Visions for Access in the Twenty-first Century Library,  April 21-22, 2003. Institutes for Information Science, Council on Library and Information Resources and the California Digital Library, Council on Library and Information Resources: Washington, DC. 27-33.
This article discusses what the Queens public library (in New York) has done to stay valid for its community.  They focus on (1) being state of the art, (2) books and reading, (3) quality customer service, and (4) teens and children.  Add into this their ethnic and performing arts programming, community education, and special language collections, and the community goes wild.  They also have an International Relations Office that coordinates with other countries to allow library personnel to learn “from the source.”  In short, by providing a broad base of information and focusing on the community’s needs, the Queens Library is seeing more people than ever before.

American Library Association. (2006). The new American library.  State of America’s Libraries Report, 2006 State of America’s Libraries Report. [http://www.ala.org/ala/pressreleases2006/march2006/stateoflibraries.htm]
In the section titled “The New American Library,” the ALA reports that the library’s definition has changed to include all the resources it provides, and that changing technology has brought more people to the library than ever before.  This is great, but one of the problems is that budgetary constraints keep libraries from answering the public’s demand for true high speed internet access.  Even with this increased usage, adult illiteracy is still very high.  This section also discussed the Bookmobile’s 100th anniversary, and the oral history project called StoryCorps.

Hartman, C. W. (2000). Memory, Palace, Place of Refuge, Coney Island of the Mind: The Evolving Role of the Library in the Late 20th Century.  Research Strategies 17, 107-121.
At first glance this article seems to be much like any other, describing the ways libraries might change to keep the public’s attention.  What’s interesting, is that this article was written by an architect who discussed the ways the building itself affects its use and the public’s impression of it.  Hartman explains that as new libraries are being built, they’re not just libraries any more.  Many have become the cultural and entertainment capitals of their cities.  They often inculde museums, performing spaces, gathering spaces, coffee shops, book stores, lecture spaces, archives, study areas, AND the stereotypical library stacks.  But in designing these new buildings, architects must take into account and plan for the fact that reading is a quiet activity; noisy activities should be kept far away from quiet spaces.  It was interesting to read about changes in the library from an architectural point of view.

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