Discussion, Reflection, Questions, Change

I’m always watching for innovation in libraries for TTW Guest Posts, including interesting ideas and new practices. I’ll meet someone at a conference doing fascinating things, perhaps testing the waters in new areas, or read a thought provoking blog post, and I’ll often ask “Would you consider doing a TTW post?”  My hope is that by highlighting some new twist on what we do, we can get people to explore these issues.   I was pleased to see a comment show up on an older TTW post about Netflix use by libraries that lead to a recent one that has gained a whole lot of attention.

One of my goals for creating this blog, for teaching, and for the presentations I do is to get folks thinking and talking. I’ve done this by highlighting signage in libraries for a long time – irking some folks and inspiring others – but hopefully creating a conversation. That type of discussion, complete with respectful debate and lots of questions, can yield good things. These things might include a re-examination of practice, a much needed change in the mechanisms that prevent libraries from offering certain services that meet the needs of users, and insights that lead ultimately to improvements for everyone involved. Discussion drives change–by asking questions that evaluate every side of an issue, by examining evidence, and by exploring the implications and outcomes of our decisions.

We stand firmly on our convictions as a profession – privacy, access, intellectual freedom, but I think we’ve also seen perceptions and interpretations of those foundations shift with societal and technological change. One prominent example has been the evolution of patron privacy these past few years as reading communities flourish online hosted by libraries. Can we offer opt in value-added services if users decide to share what was once considered a most private thing, their circulation records. Yes.

In the past few years I’ve seen libraries loan iPods, purchase iTunes music and audiobooks for circulation, maintain Netflix accounts for patrons, rip entire CD collections for listening stations in the library, circulate Kindles and Nooks, and other fascinating innovations while content and delivery constantly shifts from a model that worked well for libraries to one that bypasses our institutions and goes straight to the consumer. As budgets tighten, some solutions may push boundaries. Perceptions of those boundaries vary as much as the opinions surrounding them. This is also an important part of the conversation. I am glad to see it flourish.