How renovation is forcing a change in the definition of the library/librarian

November 18, 2011

I really liked this article from In the Library with the Lead Pipe: Renovation as a Catalyst for Change.  It is all about 2 libraries who are actually closing for a couple of years in order to completely redo their spaces.  What are they doing for their patrons while they are closed?  Well, they are becoming imbedded, having small, temporary spaces, connecting where their constituents are, and tearing down preconceived notions.  Here are some quotes from the article:

“The library as it exists now – the print collections, the reference desk – these may not be required elements of a thriving university library. This renovation project gives us the opportunity to re-examine what a library does on campus, what things we don’t need to do, and what things we could start doing that we haven’t done before.” (my emphasis)

“……The situations at St. Edward’s and Millersville are unique in that the renovations are not incremental. At both institutions, the scale of construction will shut down the entire space – not just one floor at a time. There are no branch or specialized libraries to absorb collections, services, or personnel. Business simply cannot proceed as usual – the status quo has become impossible to maintain. The libraries at St. Edward’s and Millersville have an opportunity to let go of legacies in order to better meet the needs of their respective campus communities.” (my emphasis).

“…..Inspired by Austin’s Coolhaus Ice Cream Truck use of Twitter to notify customers of their current location, St. Edward’s is considering heavier use of social media to inform students and faculty where reference assistance can be found. While still in the planning stages, the general idea is for librarians to check in using Foursquare or Gowalla at various campus locations with a note about how long they will be there.  This check in will automatically propagate to the library’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and show up on the website in a rolling feed of library news and updates. In this scenario, even users who do not connect with the library through social media services will still benefit from the check in.” (my emphasis)

Due to extreme circumstances, these libraries are able to move forward very quickly.  Although this may not be possible for your  library, I wonder what would happen if we took the ATTITUDE that drastic changes were going to occur like at these two libraries.  If you sat down with your library staff and brainstormed about how you could or would force a drastic change, what would be the first thing you would do?  What would be indispensable, and what could you do without?  How would you roll out this change to your public?  Would it be supported by your board, faculty, or patrons?  What would the benefits be in shattering those stereotypes about dusty books and techno-phobic librarians?

It will be interesting to see how these libraries, and others like them, change, adapt and survive over time.  I think the time is now to at least examine these possibilities, as the world is changing at a faster pace than ever before.  Libraries (and librarians) don’t want to be left behind.

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2 Responses to “How renovation is forcing a change in the definition of the library/librarian”

  1. Thanks for the post about our Lead Pipe article regarding the renovation projects. It’s really an exciting time to be working in libraries and you hit on the exact point we wanted readers to walk away with. Not everyone will get this opportunity, but what would it be like if we approached our libraries with this attitude? I think it would be challenging at some institutions, but even if it’s hard to break the initial thought-barrier, that is 100 times better than the alternative – sticking with what “has worked in the past” until libraries become extinct. You seem to be approaching the field with the right kind of attitude – just make it happen!

    Happy Thanksgiving :)

  2. infopromom said

    Thanks, Erin! As scary as change is, it is also exciting (and a necessary part of life, so you may as well get used to it!!!)

    Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. Maria

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