Random Friday Thoughts

I think I'm convinced now that the thing that will finally kill libraries is ancient thinking. There is an entrenched unwillingness to hear new ideas or shift thinking. It's kind of like when my dad goes on and on about how gas prices should be $1. That's great, but it isn't $1. That's a wish, not reality. If you are stuck in the habit of looking at your current measurements (we'll just call them circ, program, or door count stats) in the hopes that they'll increase, that's a wish. After all, those are the people ALREADY using the library. Where are your new initiatives to bring in the part of the community that has forgotten about you? People will parse those usage stats to the nth degree, trying to find some sort of meaning, yet spend very little time looking to the outside for guidance. Sometimes, it isn't all about a failure of marketing. Sometimes, what you're marketing is failing. Why someone isn't coming in (either in person or electronically) is as important as the holy trinity of metrics. And recirculating ideas with the same people who haven't succeeded rarely works.

Can we talk about the "balanced collection"? Whenever I hear this, I stop listening. It's awful, but also true. I know the BC people mean well.... But if you keep going in to a store and they never have what you want, you eventually find a new store. Right? Same with library patrons. All of this talk about "maybe they'll eventually find something GOOD here" is patronizing and wrong headed. People like what they like, and if they're in our community, we should have what they like. And, unless you live in Pleasantville, you'll probably find your collection can still be wonderful and wonderfully diverse.

While we're at it, can we stop insulting the people who still come in? I mean, we're hopelessly obsessed with counting them, so the least we can do is not look down our high brow noses at them, right? If someone comes in and checks out DVDs and NEVER TAKES OUT A BOOK, so what? If someone comes in repeatedly for programs but NEVER TAKES OUT A BOOK, who cares? If someone TAKES OUT ALL THE BOOKS and never signs up for anything else, who cares? We seem to believe in this hierarchy of services and the patrons who use them. Book users are, of course, at the top. But, of course, we also parse out book users. RESEARCHERS are at the top. Fiction readers are at the bottom. Genre fiction readers are clinging to the bottom rung. Urban fiction readers are under the ladder. Under the urban fiction "readers" sit the CD/DVD/Video game users. Under them (because at least they're checking things out) are the computer users. You get extra points if you're coming in with your own computer, but still...not enough to boost you up a rung. Sorry, love. Under them...I'm sorry, I can't see down that far. I check out books.

Old thinking. This isn't the new library economy, people. And, while it would be fun to pick on librarians here, they aren't the only library staff members who employ this disgusting hierarchical thinking. If you get treated one way when you come to the library, right after work in your grease stained overalls, and a different way when you come in looking more "presentable", the problem isn't your appearance.

While we're on the subject of my pet peeves: We must have more career and conference opportunities for non-MLS staff members. Guess what? Not everyone who works in a library is hoping to get their MLS one day. Plenty of people are working in libraries who don't have their MLS, and don't need or want it. Where are the conference sessions and job opportunities for those folks? Again with the changing economy of libraries: the reference desk isn't the only place where superior service can or should be given. Here is what is extremely valuable now: someone who can go out into the community and get people excited about the library; Someone who speaks the language of people who drive past the building without a second thought...until it's tax time and then they wonder why they're paying to support that place they never visit; Someone who understands that social media is more than just pushing out storytime tweets; Someone who knows the local history and what is important to which group of people; Someone who receives and processes, barcodes and labels materials all day, every day. Is that an unimportant part of library service? Then why don't we spend some time on their career development?

Instead of "What are you doing to make your library better?," maybe it should be: "what are you doing to help your library make the community better?" If you have the most beautiful, most efficiently run library that people have stopped using...you're doing it wrong.

Happy Friday!


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