Confession: I have neglected my duty as a library leader. With more than 10 years of experience working in three different types of libraries, and a multitude of specialized training under belt, I have neglected to strategically bring my library support staff into the conversation and up to speed on today’s public library services scene. I am running circulation similarly to that of a grocer: smile, scan, and say goodbye. As a supervisor I must find ways to open the conversation and empower my staff to be a part of the ever-changing library community.
How much more empowering would it be if I was able to convey to my teams the scope of public library service today, the possibilities rather than the established procedures, the heart as well as the brain? This week I find myself wondering about how to make the Hyperlinked Library accessible to public library support staff. Here are my first ideas:
Ask anyone. Our library is split into four areas: staff area, circulation desk, kid’s library, and main (adult collection-slash-public computers land). Everything we do, from the division of labor and decision-making to how we treat our patrons, is based on this model. Would we better promote and use our dusty digital collections if they existed within the four spaces of our library?
To get staff excited about change, show them possibilities. In a blog post, Jakob Guillois Laerkes discusses the “Four Spaces of the Public Library” model. Developed by Danish LIS professionals Dorte Skot-Hansen, Henrick Jochumsen, and Casper Hvenegaard Hansen, the model aims to transmute libraries from passive transactional spaces to dynamic active ones. The model makes an excellent counterpoint to our current model (maybe yours, too?) and presents an opportunity for re-imagining our space in a contemporary way. Explains Laerkes (2016):
The model consists of four different overlapping ‘spaces’: the inspiration space, the learning space, the meeting space and the performative space. These four spaces’ overall objective is to support the following four goals for the public library in the future: Experience, Involvement, Empowerment, Innovation.
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John N. Berry III shared the exciting happenings at Edmonton Public Library and how they transformed teamwork. He wrote:
Based on retail and library models, EPL has brought all customer engagement (information services, readers’ advisory, reference, digital literacy instruction, and customer service) under a single unified Discovery Service. The idea was that customers don’t group their queries into those categories and every customer engagement is a chance to showcase services and advocate for the system. Reference interview training for EPL staff is now called “discovery conversation sessions.”
As I mentioned above, our library has a hearty menu of digital services that are not reaching our users. We could be so much better at acting as information intermediaries if we spent more time discovering what our patrons want to learn, achieve or access before rushing to the visible collections for answers. Unlock the customer’s needs and release the awesome powers of our invisible collections. It’s a win-win situation.
Dokk1 library in Denmark is one of many inspirational transformation stories being discussed in library school today. This needs to be shared with today’s library teams. Check it out:
Here’s the message I think staff in small libraries need to hear: it’s okay to dream, and to dream big.
Everyone understands: our library is never going to be an 8-story marvel the size of 10 city blocks. Still, why can’t we talk about how cool it would be if our little library, which is embedded in a community of off-grid and sustainability-conscious residents, became an earth-berm Hobbit hovel? While we are discussing Hobbit-Landia Public Library, we may reimagine our underused wall space as a lush, low-cost vertical herb garden.
This post is all to say that the Hyperlinked Library, as “an open, participatory institution,” (Stephens, 2011, para. 2) is not complete until all staff members are welcome to the table, and that it is up to all who understand this to lead the way. It took me 1.5-hours to link 3 small library challenges to 3 future-thinking concepts discussed in freely available online articles that I was reading anyway. We can do this, and ‘not having time’ (my go-to reason why I haven’t done anything) is no longer an excuse.
Amanda St. John is the assistant director of a rural library in north-east Minnesota, and a student of San Jose State University’s School of Information. With a BFA in Illustration and an MFA in Writing, she has authored 21 children’s educational books–the last appearing on YALSA’s 2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list.