A Happy Library

I don’t work at a library yet but I am doing this resource building project for a non-profit.

The project was born in a bar, as all good projects are.  I was talking to the program director about wanting to build a cheese library when he said to me “you know, our library is really sad.  Two sad shelves of out dated-books.  It’s just really sad.”  We started talking about the possibility of me doing some volunteer work and I began to get really excited.  I was in 202 at the time and had visions of building a beautiful database for which I would create a custom classification system to catalog all the wonderful new resources I would find.

Then when I sat down to actually meet with the director and his co-worker, they began to talk about how it wasn’t just books they needed, but they wanted to improve the staff culture of resource sharing.  They told me that each staff member had their own go-to resources, but that there wasn’t really a practice of sharing those resources with each other.  No problem.  At this point I was taking Web 2.0, and I had wonderful plans to get the staff to build their own wiki, which would be populated with blogs and RSS feeds of their Delicious bookmarks.  I would show them how to set up feed readers, and they would spend their days reading and sharing electronic articles.  They would be so happy!

So next we took a staff survey, and I came to a staff meeting to talk about the results and show off some of my new favorite web tools and resources.  I was able to wow them with some of the possibilities, but the take away was really that while tools and resources were exciting, the staff was not so interested in actually using them.  They voiced the opinion that they would like resources for their clients to use, and that those resources should be electronic.  Fair enough.

Which brings me to where I am now.  We’ve decided to use a wiki to list electronic, held print items, and recommended off-site print items in four main categories.  Staff and clients will be able to use the wiki to find information for the clients.  We will focus on electronic resources, but will also aim to beef up the print library.  The recommended items will also serve as a wish list for the organization.

So how does publishing affect this project?  In a broader sense, we are exploring the print versus electronic issue. In order to make this project useful, it will need to be easy to integrate usage of the resources into practices with and by the clients.  There are computers available for clients to use at the organization, but they are mostly in another area of the building.  Clients may not have computer or internet access at home.  While print resources don’t require any special equipment, there is concern that items which are lent out will not make it back to the organization.  Will teens (many with literacy issues) sit and read a book in an office building?

Because we will be purchasing at a low volume, we will not run into the complexity of issues raised in a larger library.  My plate is full with this project, I can only imagine the headache it would be to expand this more basic question into the details of which serials justify a $14,000 subscription.  As librarians and library students we get excited about all sorts of things that the general public doesn’t really give a hoot about.  I think that not only must you balance between print and electronic, you must balance between what is practical (what will actually get used) and what is essential to the library’s reputation or image.


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