Last month's Library Journal highlighted a little library that could: the Fairmont Community Library Center, a branch of the Mississippi Valley Library District in Illinois. This dynamic branch has really stepped outside the traditional library box to address compelling needs in their community. They are impacting real lives by filling service gaps from preschool daycare to basic banking. Their obvious relevance in the community and the immediate positive outcomes of their work feel great. When we think about what they're doing as a model for the library of the future, though, we have to ask some tough questions about sustainability. Are non-traditional library services a fad, or are they fundamental to the future of libraries?
Large groups of people in many parts of the world feel threatened and disoriented by global economic changes that are hard to interpret and even harder to accommodate. New technology and automation are making once secure jobs obsolete. From the Brits that voted for Brexit, to the coal miners that voted for Trump, to the Filipinos that elected a tough talking Rodrigo Duterte, all of them are looking for a bit of security, a shield against forces they can't control. And herein, I argue, is a surprising and dramatic opportunity for local libraries. Hear me out.
If you work regularly with homeless patrons, you've likely encountered uncomfortable situations where communication seems to fail despite your best efforts. This article describes three common mistakes that can turn a merely uncomfortable situation volatile: "parenting" a patron, waiting, and worrying about gender. The advice here comes from Ryan Dowd, a man with decades of experience serving and working with the homeless. This article defines those three mistakes and offers guidelines to counteract them to help you diffuse, rather than escalate, tense situations.
The common mode, especially in large urban public libraries, is to speak of the challenges presented by our homeless patrons. They make other patrons feel uncomfortable, there are stories of staff confrontations, bad odors, and property damage... All of these are valid concerns. This article, however, will make the case that your library's response to homeless patrons can let you shine a bright light on the relevance and power of a 21st century library in a way that few other issues can. And at the best-run libraries all around the country, it already is.
The issues surrounding homelessness present a poignant set of challenges and opportunities for public
libraries. In the abstract, libraries have a core mission to serve the underprivileged and help close gaps in opportunity and information access. Helping the homeless improve their own condition is one of the most important services a library can provide in its community. As a practical reality, however, many homeless people have problems the library is not equipped to address: serious mental illness, addiction, chronic physical health challenges... Also, the presence of obviously homeless people in the library can alienate the families and the more affluent patrons that libraries rely upon for funding support.
How, then, do effective libraries balance these competing priorites? What best practices have the most effective libraries implemented?
Stephen Abram and I were both working for SirsiDynix about 6 years ago. Stephen was VP of Innovation and I was Director of Product Strategy. We caught up again about a month ago and Stephen related some of what he'd learned from a recent survey of public perception of libraries in Ontario. He had commissioned the study as part of his library advocacy work with the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries (he's currently the Executive Director of FOPL.
The Niche Academy platform provides value to libraries by helping them deliver their own educational curriculum more efficiently. The ready-to-use tutorials we offer are an essential element of that value. We get a common question when we first introduce people to the Niche Academy tutorials:
“How are your tutorials different from the tutorials provided by the vendors?”
This post highlights 5 things that differentiate our tutorials.
I must be feeling bold this morning because I’m about to predict the future of public libraries.
Libraries of the future will become first class, publicly funded educational institutions that fill gaps in the formal or traditional education system.
Examples of those gaps include the following:
- Early childhood literacy
- Personal enrichment learning
- English as a second language
- Entrepreneurship and small business training