Beyond the Book Brand

As books evolve, so must libraries.  As information needs change, so must we.  Thus begins another chapter in As the Library Turns.

Books are intrinsically linked with libraries, in the minds of our patrons.  As much as I hate the whole concept of branding, I have to admit it perfectly describes our situation.  Books are our brand.

We must expand the brand.  You probably know that.   For a recent reason, check out the article published a few days ago in Forbes that was written by a man who thinks the Amazon unlimited subscription is a good replacement for libraries.


Some librarians are pushing to substitute the concept of “Information” in to replace books.  This is the kind of thinking that gives us “Librarians: The Ultimate Search Engine” and “Librarians: Better than Bing, but not Quite as Good as Google,” etc., etc.

Information sucks as a brand.

Maybe one reason why librarians like “Information” as a brand so much is because librarians really like information.  It fills us with secret glee.  But folks, friends, comrades, this is not normal. Loving information is a trait that is much more common amongst librarians than it is in the general population.

In Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuck writes,

Information is cheap and plentiful; information wrapped in a story, however, is special.  Brands need to storytell around their content to make it enticing, not just put it out for passive consumption like a boring platter of cubed cheese. (p.86)

Books don’t just tell a story, they have a story.  They are a story.  Books inspire deep emotional connections.  They are tangible things, things we can touch, smell and taste (maybe not that that last one with the library books though ok?).  Books inspire deep love and nostalgia; in the eBook versus print discussion, the print side inevitably ends the discussion by sighing and saying, “there’s just no substitute for a real book.”

But even eBooks are more compelling than “Information”.  “Information” is vague.  It is not something you can viscerally enjoy.  Possible connotations include the informational talk your doctor gives you when your cholesterol is too high, Excel spreadsheets filled with meaningless data, and those annoying passive-aggressive emails your co-worker sends that end “Just FYI.”

I don’t know what the new library brand is.  I don’t think we will know until something has stuck, decades in the future.

Another new brand option is the place for the community to meet, the library as “third place.”  I don’t think that’s quite right either.

I think the new library brand will look something more like literacy.  And not just “I can read” literacy, but life literacy – digital skills, financial skills, engaged-with-the-world skills.

Literacy is engaging.  It is action oriented.  It is attainable by everyone.  It is improving skills and changing in a changing world.  That’s the library I’m interested in.

It’s the library where people’s stories become our story.





The Big Shush

At my library, the patrons are often more protective of quiet than we librarians are.  There is one woman who seems particularly bothered by even the quietest of conversations.  She will frequently come up to me to ask, “Is talking allowed in this library?”  or “Are cell phones allowed in this library?”  Each time I tell her, “Yes, quiet conversations are allowed in the library” and point out our two silent rooms, where talking is not allowed.

Modern librarians are often reluctant shushers.  We want people to think we’re fun.  We want libraries to be vibrant, energy-filled buildings.  We hope to shake off the dusty book mausoleum image and usher ourselves into the 21st century as more of a party institution.  And most importantly maybe, we want the people who have not felt welcomed by the sternly guarded quiet of yesteryear to COME TO THE LIBRARY.

But many of our hardcore patrons want hallowed silence.  They want to consume their dusty books in uninterrupted peace.  They are studying, or concentrating, or contemplative, or sometimes just generally mysanthropic.

This conflict reminds me of what I’ve read about the silent cars on the New York/New Jersey train.  The piece I’m thinking of was in the New Yorker a few years ago, but that’s behind a paywall. Here’s some discussion of them in the New York Times. 

My library is lucky enough to have not one but two quiet rooms (one with screens, one without).  We have an accommodation we can point out to these folks. Sometimes though, this still is not enough.  They want to use a library computer, for example, or the quiet room is full, or they are just offended by the notion that there is a sound or a cell phone in the library.

So what do you do to resolve these conflicts? An invitation to the world?  Ask them to suck it up?  Silence the offenders?

This is kind of a key image issue.  There has recently been a lot of talk about What Librarians Look Like, but maybe a more important question for our users is “What do libraries sound like?”  How do we create a new image, and a new reality, which is friendly and inviting, which welcomes noise and participation, but which respects the needs of our silence-loving power users?

The Quiet Place

The Authority of Experts

I’m building a staff photo board at work. In addition to a photo, I asked people to tell me their name, title, and what they were an “expert” in. I specified that they could be expert at anything, work-related or not work-related, giving the examples “cheese” and “being able to find ‘missing’ books.” Many people have been reticent to name their “expertise.” People seem worried that doing so might be conceited, or that others will try to test them. And interestingly, two staff members, both higher level managers, said that they felt that they were more a “jack of all trades, master of none.”

At my old job, I asked this question to two other groups – museum educators, and museum docents. Neither of these groups expressed the same reluctance to name their areas of expertise. Of course, medium may have something to do with it, at the museum, they answered verbally, whereas at my library, we are writing down their answers. Spoken claims don’t carry as much weight as written ones. But I also think that it may have something to do with the library environment.

Expertise and authority are key concepts in libraries. Librarians’ responsibilities often include helping patrons learn to evaluate someone’s credentials, to find the difference between well-supported arguments and wild claims. In school and college libraries, this might manifest as information literacy instruction, while in public libraries this is more likely to take the form of telling patrons, “no, don’t give that website your bank details so you can get free money, it’s a scam.” These are both excellent services that really help patrons. Encouraging independent thought and healthy skepticism is the positive manifestation of the weight we place on expertise and authority.

But these concepts also work to stifle staff and inhibit positive change in our service models. This idea of the sacred coupling of expertise and authority results in policies that seem only to guard the gravitas of the reference librarian – policies that state circulation staff can’t place holds, for example, or that pages can’t direct a patron in the stacks to the book that they are looking for. While it is true that reference librarians are trained to look for and address unstated information needs, there is no reason that they must personally examine every query for them. There is no reason that pages and circ staff can’t be trained to perform these tasks, and to know when to say to a patron “I need help helping you.”

Reference librarians are experts at deciphering and meeting information needs. But being an “expert” doesn’t preclude asking for help in this task, in fact, it absolutely requires the patron’s assistance. I was once asked by a patron, “Where are the Atlas Maps?” I replied, “Are you just looking for atlases, or is there a specific publisher, ‘Atlas Maps’”? “Oh, you don’t know!” She replied disgustedly, and stomped off. And working with other librarians can mean the difference between a swift and accurate answer, and a long bout of research. I have a coworker who is excellent at Reader’s Advisory, another who is an ace technology troubleshooter, another who knows exactly what is in our local history center, etc. etc. You better believe I consult with them as needed.

Being an expert doesn’t always mean being an authority. The reason I asked the question “What are you expert in?” for our staff photo board is because I hoped it would provide new topics for person-to-person information sharing. Unfortunately I mostly succeeded in turning people off. We’re stuck in the idea that an expert has to objectively be an authority. The truth of the matter is, expertise is often relative, and one can be an expert and still be humble.

Poultry Club Boys Listen to the Expert

Non-Library Librarian Jobs, and Dividing LIS Work

As the number of people enrolled in library school continues to increase, and as the amount of funding for libraries stagnates or shrinks, and as our culture of information and technology changes and evolves, more and more “library school” students are turning to non-library jobs.

Are these non-library librarian jobs inferior? Are they second class jobs?

Yes and no.

People go to library school because they want to work in libraries. When these people arrive at library school and begin to hear a push for non-traditional career paths, they are being given a bait and switch. It is tough to get a library job. If you’re a library school administrator, and you want people to persist at your library school, when they realize that the money they are shelling out is really very possibly not going to result in a full-time-with-benefits-and-decent-pay librarian job, you’ve get to sell them on some palatable alternative. If you want to keep your full-time-with-benefits-and-decent-pay library school administrator job, you’ve got to help your school keep the hope of employment alive. Because as much as learning theory is fun, library school is about getting a job. The ubiquitous “MLIS from an ALA accredited school required” ensures that people who want to work in libraries, as librarians, will continue to go to ALA accredited library schools. To get work. In libraries.

That being said, people who want to work outside of libraries also go to library school. Library school attendees include people who want to do data management or knowledge management or information architecture, etc. They want to build databases or write indexes or massage information tidbits with their bare hands. They think they’d enjoy working for library vendors or software developers or even making whole new careers and spaces for themselves, in some weird industry that doesn’t even know it needs library skills. And sometimes people who go to library school* intending to work in a library find a non-library librarian job that they fall in LOVE with, or just end up liking ok.

This is a manifestation of our current information shift. To use a phrase that’s trite at this point, “information doesn’t all live in libraries anymore”, if it ever did, and some people are more interested in information than in libraries. For those people, non-library jobs are not second class jobs, they are the whole point of the thing in and of themselves. When these people get a non-library librarian job, that’s an opportunity to rejoice.

But this focus on non-library librarian jobs is also a manifestation of our lack of library jobs. There are fewer opportunities to work in libraries while non-library opportunities are still growing**. It’s as though it’s easier to build a single new position, or to shift the path of an opportunity, than it is to rebuild depleted library staffing.

This second reason, is why I continue to make the distinction between non-library librarian jobs, and library librarian jobs.

Because we don’t want to obscure the loss of opportunities in libraries, pretending it’s ok.  It isn’t.

Abandoned Basement area

*It’s not really library school anymore either. A recent respondent to a Hiring Librarians survey took me to task for saying using this term – calling it old fashioned. And it is, I guess. Most of us more recent grads have an I for information secreted somewhere in there amongst our letters.

**At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “But what about that seven percent growth rate that we’re going to experience over the next ten years?  Slower than average, but still growing!”

Well, I’m skeptical.  Read the BLS’ page on job outlook for librarians, and you’ll find the sentences: “later in the decade, prospects should be better as older library workers retire and population growth generates openings” and “the increased availability of electronic information is also expected to increase the demand for librarians in research and special libraries, where they will be needed to help sort through the large amount of available information”, both sentiments which have moved into the “hollow promise” category.  You’ll also find:

Budget limitations, especially in local government and educational services, may slow demand for librarians. Some libraries may close, reduce the size of their staff, or focus on hiring library technicians and assistants, who can fulfill some librarian duties at a lower cost.

Call me a pessimist, but that last one rings true.

Photo: Abandoned Basement Area by Jessamyn West via Flickr and Creative Commons License

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books

This morning I read about how the Main branch of the San Francisco Public Library is increasing the numbers of both security and custodial staff, in an effort to make the library safer and cleaner (and ultimately more usable?  The article doesn’t seem to worry about that piece of the puzzle).

SF Main Library implementing new strategies to curb unsavory behavior

First, wowza, one million dollars!  That’s  a lot of money!  But, only a little over 3% of the total budget.  So not that much maybe, relatively.  I’m still learning how library budgets flesh out.

Second, this is kind of a sensational sentence:

“The institution has been marred by violence, drug use, sleeping patrons and deplorable bathrooms. ”


This was one of my main library haunts for about ten years, until quite recently in fact. SFPL Main is a nice library.  It was built in the mid-90s.  It’s a great building, with the side that faces the civic center plaza done in a beaux-arts style, to match City Hall and the Asian Art Museum (former library), and the other side of the building done in a more current style.  It’s a harmonious blend of traditional and modern aesthetics. There is plenty of light, and computers.  The children’s area is big and welcoming.  The San Francisco History Center is housed on one of the upper floors, and it is beautifully appointed with comfortable wooden tables and interesting ephemera.  But don’t take my word for it.  If you read the Yelp reviews, you’ll find enthusiastic library-lovers.

SF Main rotunda

The bathrooms can get smelly.  I can’t give you any personal commentary on the elevators, because I don’t use them, but I believe they can get funky as well.  And, as with any library, there are a good number of heavy duty users who are freaks, weirdos, unclean, or otherwise unsavory. In September, I did read a news article where one patron hit another patron in the face with a chair.  And if you read the Yelp reviews, there are a lot of people who say “the only thing wrong with this library is…” and then mention something to do with cleanliness, or unsavory types, or use a phrase like “crawling with homeless people.”  As if homeless people, like roaches, are  an infestation.

SF main modern side

The Main library is downtown, in a large city, and it is the closest library for two of the city’s major dumping grounds for the poor: the Tenderloin, and 6th Street (click that second link, if you click on any link today). I want to quote Melinda B. from Yelp to you, because I think she’s put it very well:

 The bathrooms are not awesome due to the high preponderance of street vagrants.  The bathrooms smell.  There’s no way around it.  You can’t leave your stuff lying around.  But this is a big city so I have no expectation for doing that anyway.

When I walked in at opening time I was astounded at the crowds, and I do mean crowds of homeless people headed inside.  But honestly, I’ve never been bothered by anyone here, so the people who say it’s a cesspool strike me as people who have not much experience with city life.   I take pity on the homeless, so as long as they’re respectful to the facility and other patrons, not horribly stinky, not making noise or disturbing anyone, they don’t bother me in the least. Let them read the papers and use the internet–isn’t that what public libraries are for?

So, is the library “marred by violence, drug use, sleeping patrons and deplorable bathrooms”?  I wouldn’t put it that way.  (Aside: Can a sleeping person really marr anything?  Doesn’t that require a little more action?)  It’s a city library, yo.  Negotiating the way that different populations use the facilities, materials, and services is a tough and ever-present challenge for public libraries.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good idea to spend more on custodial and security staff (and I think I’m going to save that for another post).  But the Main Library is not a blighted cesspool.  It’s just got city problems.

Photo: San_Francisco_Public_Library_Main_Branch_Facade By Alexander Marks (aomarks) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: San Francisco Public Library by Flickr User Sameer Vasta, via Creative Commons License

Photo: San Francisco Main Library by Flickr User George Kelly, via Creative Commons License


The Deep Mission of Public Libraries

Why do we have public libraries?

Many of today’s librarians like to talk about themselves as “information brokers” or “knowledge facilitators.”  We talk about our skill in finding and organizing information.  And sure, we’ve got those skills.

But what we really do is support literacy.  This is our deeper mission.

In the minds of our patrons, the most prevalent definition of a public library is “that place that has all the books.”

But why bother having all those books?  Those books allow our community to be more literate.  They provide a way for us to share and promote reading, at all levels, for all kinds of people.  The library provides a way for people who would not otherwise have access to books, to have access to books, and to connect people who have books, with different kinds of books. The library provides a wide range of books for a wide diversity of people.  It allows the community to practice and perfect our skill in understanding and appreciating the printed word.

miller avenue branch library

Books are becoming less central to our perception of literacy.  It’s not that physical books are dying, but they are no longer the only occupiers of their ecological niche.  Digital media, whether it be eBooks, or web pages, or apps, or texting, or whatever else you want to add to the list, is encroaching.  It is ubiquitous and consuming.

Libraries are not dying, but as books become less central, libraries too need to evolve, or we will be edged out.

What should public library evolution look like?


Talking about libraries as places for information, rather than books, is one way to think about it.  This model puts the librarian at the center of the library.  She is collecting, curating, and disseminating information.  She is a better-than-Google search ninja.

Another way to think about our future libraries is to expand our understanding of literacy.  Literacy has been a fluid concept, looking back through time.  We have defined literacy variously, as being able to recite, as being able to write one’s name, as reading, as reading and understanding.  As opportunities to read became more common, due in part to improved printing and communication technology, our definition of literacy became more sophisticated.

Our definition of literacy needs now to expand again in response to our culture of rapid technological innovation.

Public libraries need to embrace digital and technological skills as part of our deep mission to support literacy.

This model, where libraries support an expanded idea of literacy, puts the patron at the center of the library.  The library is about supporting and improving the patron’s life.  It is about allowing the patron to move from consumer to maker, breaker, creator and repairer.  I prefer this model, to the information broker model.  It’s messier.  It’s sexier.  It’s more interesting.  And it’s more necessary.


Our patrons need help with every level of technology literacy.  From those who come in who don’t know how to use a mouse, to those who’re interested in building a computer from scratch, the library could provide a wide range of resources for a wide diversity of people.  We can help our community to practice and perfect our skill in understanding, using, and appreciating technology and digital content.

We’re kind-of getting there.  We’ve got computers and the free internet for our patrons.  We’re doing some classes and programs to help people develop their skills.  And then of course we’ve got the maker movement.

It is in this context, of expanded literacy, that the maker fad starts to become something more important.  Maker Spaces are totally hot right now.  Everybody wants a 3D printer.

We’re in a bubble of bandwagonism.  But after this settles down, I think we’ll be in a better place.  It will be more accepted to support digital literacy, from helping patrons understand where the url bar is to helping patrons understand how to build an app, wire a circuit, or repair their PC.  We won’t be so rabid about it, but we’ll have the foundations in place to really get down to work.

Photo: Miller Avenue Abandoned Library by Flickr User aaron.michaels, Creative Commons License

Photo: Evolution Des Wissens By Johanna Pun for Wikimedia Deutschland (Wikimedia Deutschland) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Floppy knows that feel, Cassette. From Obsolete Technology by paperbeatsscissors. Creative Commons License.

Navigating Social Services with Patrons (More on Libraries and the Homeless)

I’m trying to work out some of my thoughts about library services for homeless people.  I talked a little bit about them here and here. Below are some more ramblings and mutterings.

I recently listened to this archived Infopeople webinar, WHAT DO I DO NOW? Handling Challenging Situations with Mentally Ill and Homeless Library Users, Part I (the audio issues do get solved eventually, hang in there).  The presenters are two people from the San Francisco Public Library, the acting Chief of Main, and the social worker who works full time in the library.  I’m very impressed both by the program, and by the strategies presented in this webinar.  The social worker, Leah Esguerra, not only directly helps homeless patrons, but helps train library workers so they can both better help homeless patrons and better cope with the “difficult-ness” of homeless patrons.

One of the biggest frustrations, in helping homeless patrons, is that they need services and can’t, for whatever reason, get them.  The social services system is complicated enough that it is difficult to find the right place to send someone who is looking for housing assistance, for example.  Then once you find the right agency, you have to take into account the patron’s abilities and resources.  Do they have a phone? Computer skills? Transportation, or money for transportation?  Can they remember what you tell them?  Will they be able to navigate the bureaucracy?  Will they have the capability, patience or attention span necessary to see their inquiry through to the end?

I can see how having someone in the library who understands this system, and can help patrons navigate it, would be invaluable.


Some Patrons are More Equal than Others

I’m trying to work out some of my thoughts about library services for homeless people.  I talked a little bit about them here, and here are some more ramblings and mutterings.

Of course, the library isn’t just for poor people.  But poor people benefit tremendously from the library.

Homeless people specifically benefit both in the Victorian-esque sense of being “improved” (e.g. increased literacy, or knowledge) and in the more modern sense of improved quality of life – from the basic “warm place to sit” to diversion and learning via library materials to social connections, whether with other patrons, staff, or virtually, in using computer time to go on social media sites, or email, etc.   From both a missionary and a compassionate viewpoint, libraries are good for homeless people.

Library funding comes largely from property taxes. Thus, homeless people are not the ones who pay for the library.  And homeless people are frequently the losers when there is conflict between the way the homeless people use the library and the way that housed people use the library.

Homeless people are often “difficult patrons.” Libraries make attempts to manage conflict by writing policies.  Sometimes these policies clearly target homeless people, even though they may not say so outright.  For example, it is generally frowned upon to bring lots of possessions into the library (bag policies) or to bathe in library bathrooms (bathing policies).

Homeless people who are also mentally ill are particularly “difficult patrons.”  Not just for librarians, but for other patrons who may also end up interacting with them.  I wrote a bit about helping people that you don’t really want to help here and about needy patrons here.

This is a good read:  There’s a sentence in there that reads:

Although, it is not the job of libraries to alleviate the issue of homelessness, many public libraries provide a refuge or sanctuary to those stricken by poverty.21

But I think maybe we should consider it our job.  Not as in, “we should start replacing the stacks with cots,” but as in, “homeless people are a key patron group, let’s be better about understanding and providing services.”

Bowery_men_waiting_for_bread_in_bread_line,_New_York_City,_Bain_Collection (1)

Can You Have a Third Place if There’s No First or Second?

At the interview for my first librarian job, one of the questions I asked was “What does ‘third place’ mean?”  This library’s customer service plan, which had been discussed in the supplemental questions, included a sentence that declared they wanted customers to use the library as a “third place.”

As they told me, and as I’ve come to understand from my own work, “third place” is the concept of the community living room.  Your first place is your home, your second place is your work, and your “third place” is an informal, drop-in meeting place. It’s often where you go to socialize, with old and new friends. It could be a barbershop, a cafe, a pub, a bowling alley, a church basement, somewhere in Second Life (although probably only if you were teaching at an online library school about five or six years ago), or it could be a library .

Dans un cafeFrom my own  perspective as a working, housed individual, I can really get behind this concept of the “third place.” I’ve been finding third places all my life. It fits with my memories of being a bored suburban teenager looking for a place to hang out (I had romantic notions based around French cafe culture and a passing and likely misinformed familiarity with the working style of Jean Paul Sarte).  I have fond memories of Sunday lunch in English pubs, where people from ages 0 to 100 gather to eat, drink beer, and/or run around. And finally, my husband and I have crammed ourselves into tiny apartments for the last ten years, and found necessary breathing room in all kinds of third places.

What a wonderful concept, for the library to be our “third place”!  Patrons should come hang out, chat with each other, enjoy a sense of community, and then head home and sleep soundly in their own beds.

But now I’ve been thinking, what does this notion of third place mean for people who don’t have a first or second place?

Many of our patrons are people who don’t.  Patrons who are homeless and/or jobless are often heavy library users.  And not so much in that happy, take-your-cute-kids-to-storytime way.  More in that using-computers, sleeping, hanging-out-cause-there’s-nowhere-else-to-go way.  Jobbed, housed patrons and staff often take issue with homeless patrons, probably in three main categories: smells, possessions, and outre talk or behavior.

There’s this undercurrent, both from staff and patrons, that homeless patrons hanging out, doing third place behavior, is improper library use.  And yet we spend time enticing our housed patrons to do just that.

Do we need to rethink something here?



What I Really Should Have Learned in Library School

What I want is facts

For Hiring Librarians, I’m working with Brianna Marshall of Hack Library School on a survey about what employers think potential hires should learn in library school.  This is making me consider my own education, and I’ve decided to write the curriculum I should have pursued, in order to be a better public librarian. I still may pursue this stuff.

  1. Intro to Social Work: For trying to help homeless people find food and shelter, for patrons who need help getting benefits like social security and food stamps, for helping GBLTQ teens or battered women in hostile homes, for knowing how to tell if little kids have abusive parents, and for understanding what kind of help people in need really need.
  2. Basic Coding and Intro to Information Technologies: Libraries need better websites, better tech, and to be able to help others with learning tech skills.  Much of the tech I know I’ve picked up along the way, and a more formal grounding in the basics would serve my patrons well.
  3. Minor in Spanish, Arabic, Hindustani, and any number of Asian languages: Even though it’s possible to help people who don’t speak English when that’s all you do speak, being able to speak to people in their own languages goes a long way toward making them feel welcome.  For example, once I was trying to (nicely) explain to a woman that she needed to bring some books back.  When my Spanish-speaking co-worker came over to help out, I could see the tension drain from the woman’s face.  In another example, a librarian told me how a Mandarin-speaking library assistant drew Mandarin-speakers to her branch.  No one in the system knew that there was a local pocket of this community until word started spreading that they could get help from a native speaker at the library.
  4. Certificate in World Cultures or maybe International Business: Relatedly, I think about how better understanding of cultural nuances would do wonders in making sure patrons get the help they need.  For example, people from India do this head wobble, which I now know means “yes”, or “I understand”, but also sometimes means “no”.  A while ago I had some patrons do it while I was trying to explain checking out eBooks, and I couldn’t remember what it meant – was my explanation succeeding, or causing confusion?
  5. Music 101: For being a better singer and shaker player during storytime.
  6. Intro to Child Development/Cognitive Development:  Kids and teens often behave in certain ways because that’s how they’re wired.  They may not understand the world the same way that grown-ups do.  A patron once came in to try to find some books that would encourage her two year old to sit still while Mommy read to her.  My boss was able to explain that two year olds are just beginning to realize that they are separate entities, and being able to say no to Mommy reading was just part of the development of individuality.  The patron went away with better strategies for reading time (reading for shorter periods, and being willing to put the book down if the toddler’s attention wandered), and felt better about her child’s behavior, realizing that it wasn’t personal.
  7. Intro and Advanced Marketing: We gotta be better at telling people what we do.  We need to improve the public’s understanding of the importance of libraries.  It’s a matter of survival.
  8. Masters in Community Organizing, Advocacy, Public Policy and Social Justice:  Libraries provide the means for people to seek a more just society, the means for people to teach themselves about history and laws, to congregate with people that are like and not like them, and to negotiate differences while attempting to share resources. But even more than that, libraries are community based organizations, and we need to understand how to draw in and advocate for our communities. Library workers are government agents that work directly with community members, and they tell us how they feel and what they want.  We can help our government be more inclusive.  We can help our communities be heard. We just need to tune up our voices. The specific thing that made me add this to the list is the verdict in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and an article another librarian from my system posted about it. This verdict reminds me that racism is part of our systems, and that justice for black people is separate and not equal.  I am wondering how my library can respond to this verdict.
  9. Instruction and Education Series:  Ok, I actually did take a (really good) class in teaching information literacy in library school.  But I’d add more courses on teaching!  I instruct people every day, not just in library usage, but in basic computer tasks, in reading comprehension, and in all manner of life skills.  I often learn along with my patrons; we look at an article together and discuss what it means.  I’d love to be better at using this time.
  10. First Aid Certification:  I never know when I should dial 911.  I usually have to ask “would you like me to call 911?”  I’d love to be better at understanding what is really a medical emergency, and to be able to jump in when someone is in trouble.

That turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would, when I sat down to write.  What did I miss?

Photo by Flickr user Char Booth ( via Creative Commons License