Thinking outside the typcial collection

The Swiss Army Librarian had an excellent post on non-traditional collections the other day. He first talked about the Human Library Project which I found so fascinating I didn’t read the rest of his post. I mean, checking out people to help build understanding and reduce prejudice? I wondered how I hadn’t heard of this before. I then spent a good amount of time wandering around the project website and reading stories. Great stuff.

When I got back to Swiss Army’s post I was surprised to see that there were links to other nontraditional types of collections:

These are great lists and really get the brain stirring about the needs of the community and what sort of collections could be possible. Some of the more interesting are farm land, cooking appliances, tools, and hobby supplies. There is also an interesting list of alternative resources like 3D printing and creative labs space. Each one of these collections pushes the boundaries of a library’s purpose farther out. And, I just find the idea of checking out people and land intriguing.

Here is a quick brainstorm of possible collections:

  • Umbrellas (for when you get caught in the rain unexpectedly)
  • Sports equipment like frisbees (there is an excellent green space just outside the library where I work)
  • GPS navigator or other gadgets that users may use on a short-term basis

What are some other ides?

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Books constitute capital…

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.” — Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is one of my favorite founders, partly because of his love of books, but also because he had a large hand in guiding the course and development of the United States. He also left his large library of books to help reestablish the Library of Congress collection after the British burned the capital building in 1814, which is an awesome legacy in its own right.

This quote is not directly about libraries. Though Jefferson mentions a “library book,” I have a feeling he means books as part of a collection and this is reinforced when you look at the quote in context; Jefferson is appalled by some tax being levied on books.

However, the spirit of the quote is applicable to libraries and I believe that books as capital is an apt perspective to take when looking at a library collection.

To own a book is to have that knowledge on the ready when ever the need arrives and this is an investment in the future. To have access to a public library would be access to a large amount of capital. This access cannot be underrated: life long learning, job training, job searching, hobbies, health information, etc. As Jefferson mentions, this is sometimes the only capital people have. I have often thought of this as one of the primary values of a public library. If people are to invest in their lives and take responsibility for their future, they must have access to the basic resources that would make that possible. Shutting knowledge behind pay walls makes attempts at self-reliance all but impossible for those without the financial means. When I hear that the library is no longer needed because people can get books from other sources I shudder. If all the library were was a place to get books they might have a point. However, books are not like other commodities; they hold information. Information that can be used in education, innovation, training, and personal well being. This places books and libraries in special consideration for a community.

I wonder how Jefferson’s language could be used in the advocacy of libraries. How would it sound if libraries pitched themselves as intelectual capital investment?

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Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits | Pew Internet Libraries

Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits | Pew Internet Libraries.

The library demographic: People aged 16 to 30. This a very positive study for the role of libraries and books in our culture and may also provide clear directions for where to take library services. The most surprising findings is that young people read, they read print books, and are more likely than older people to borrow a book. In fact, 60% of those between 16 and 30 have gone to the library in the past year. The encouraging number is that a majority of Americans feel the library is important, rising to over 70% for age 25 to 49. This is all awesome news, but the question remains how libraries translate these findings into securing services for users and helping users become life time readers and patrons.

One of the more interesting details was the disparity between young and older persons borrowing habits. Young people were more often to borrow, while older users considered buying a sometimes more viable option. For young people, it might be obvious that they don’t have the spending money to buy all the books they want to read, so borrowing is the best option. For older users, though, there was some revealing information on how they make their choice:

“It mainly depends on availability at the library and how badly I want to read the book ‘right now,’” and online panelist told us. “If the queue for the library e-book is too long, I’ll just buy it. If it’s a reference book that I’m only using temporarily, I’ll borrow it, but if it’s something that I foresee needing in the future, I’ll buy.”

See that? If the queue is too long for the eBook, they buy it. With all the eBook hubbub between publishers and libraries this is interesting. It means libraries need to fight more to secure a larger collection of eBooks. The findings do show that only about 12-18% of readers read eBooks in the past year, so it is not an immediate problem. However, libraries should want to be seen as a resource for users long after they have a job and can afford to buy what they want. Helping to build habits and reasonable expectations in young users may be one way of doing this; by associating reading their favorite books with the library users may come to see the library as the first place to go. But this will only happen if young users see the library as more than just a place they do school work and can get free copies of the latest young adult novel. They have to view the library as a positive force in their lives. What this studies illuminates is that libraries have a strong place in the lives of young people. There is an opportunity for libraries to target this group in the hopes of encouraging life long reading and learning and viewing the library as the place where this happens. The question is: how?

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October 23, 2012 · 1:30 pm

A Library Super PAC!

Well, not exactly a Super Pac, but it got your attention. In reality, EveryLibrary is a 501 (c) 4 social welfare orginization. It is hard to tell the difference and no one wants to go around saying 501 (c) 4 social welfare orginization. What is great about EveryLibrary is that it really is a social welfare orginization lobbying on behalf of libraries in elections and legistlation, as opposed to just hiding under the tax status to collect unlimited funding to pay for attack ads. But don’t take my word for it:

WHY EVERYLIBRARY
EveryLibrary is seeking initial funding resources to become established as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit social welfare organization chartered to work exclusively on local library ballot initiatives. The organization will be registered in Illinois after reaching our funding/pledge goal from individual, corporate, union, and foundation donors.  We will work in partnership with local library campaign leaders and independently to advocate for specific library initiatives among the voting public.

WHAT WE DO
EveryLibrary will be the first and only national organization dedicated exclusively to political action at a local level to create, renew, and protect public funding for libraries of all types. We will provide tactical and operational support to local voter awareness campaigns, seed and sustaining monies to local ballot committees and PACs, as well as conducting direct voter advocacy in support of library taxing, bonding, and referendum.

A long term complaint about libraries is we don’t make our case very well to the public. This was made apparant to me when I was at a county training and someone asked me if people still came to the library. Of course they do! But that person shouldn’t have to ask that. At that same meeting it was related that there is a disconnect between the public perception of the value of the library and the public need for a library. During good times the library ranks low on a list of priorities but during a recession the public grows upset when hours and services are cut. Public libraries need to bridge that gap and make the case that libraries are important at all times and EveryLibrary is part of the solution of making the case for public libraries. Especially now as city and county government deal with shrinking budgets.

Visit the site, learn more about it, and share with your friends.

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A public library is the most enduring of memorials…

Mark Twain, 1907

“A public library is the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument for the preservation of an event or a name or an affection; for it, and it only, is respected by wars and revolutions, and survives them” — Mark Twain

This quote resonates most profoundly today as many libraries face increasing budgets short falls and the rise of eBooks. However, the spirit of the quote is still apt and Twain is right in singling out the library as being something whose purpose and value endure despite the passage of time and the ravishes of war. Libraries exist not just to provide access to information but to preserve information. Many local artifacts find their way to public libraries and archives and wouldn’t exist or be publicaly avaible if not for the library. While books may go out of print due to low demand or expiring copyright, libraries hold on to these materials as long as possible, hoping that a reader may stumble upon it while browsing.

What are your thougths on Twain’s quote? How does it reflect on the status of public libraries today?

*As a side note, I am hoping this will become a regular feautre: Quotes to Muse. I’ll locate a quote about libraries (usually from a person of note) and muse on it. And you’re thoughts are always welcome.

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Blogging, Tech and Games

A new job. Training. A new blog. I recently startred in my new library position in Fairfax County and have been immersed in county training for several weeks. Now, in the midst of my training, the library has started Tech Games, a series of trainings to help aquaint library staff with the basic technology they will encounter in their work, but also introduce some of the latest social networking trends, such as blogs. Thus, I have started a new blog. I have a perosnal blog already which has fallen into disuse, so I am viewing this as an oppurtunity to start blogging again and to write about what I hope well become a burgeoning career in librarianship.

The games are a great idea and incorporate a lot about what has been discovered about how we humans learn: play, competition, achievement, and reward. I also like how it is capitalizing on the recent trends in social gaming where just about everything we do becomes a game. Google tried to do this with its news feed by giving badges for articles you read. I think that may have been a bit of an over kill and they have recently discontinued badges. However, Tech Games has the real potential help library staff learn about and grow comfortable with technology while having fun. I hope this becomes a yearly activity.

Tasks in the games include updating this blog, so stay tuned. Perhaps by the end of the games this blog well have a clear focus and topic.

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