Future of Libraries: Challenges & Strategies #internetlibrarian #il2014

Ken Haycock

Beyond the pandering, nostalgia, etc. Other people moving into traditional library roles: community centers doing preschool, senior programs. University deans say they could let students study in the cafeteria for lower cost.

Libraries are moving into others’ spaces — makerspaces, etc.

We can’t spend two years studying the integration of two desks. Industry would do it in two days.

What is our unique value proposition? Public dollars and a demonstrable return. What is our staff’s expertise that others don’t have?

We are just about the only sector that doesn’t have a common success metric. High customer satisfaction is not enough.

Is the library one system or a collection of neighborhood services?

How can the sense of entitlement of our staff be broken?

Panel: Corinne Hill, Chattanooga Public Library; John Szabo, Los Angeles Public Library; Donna Scheeder, Library of Congress.

Hill:

Return on investment. People don’t value culture, but they will pay $150 for one football ticket.

Need to align with organization’s goals. Police and fire do better, because fear wins out. Align yourself with education, youth, public safety. Tell politicians, “Let me tell you how you can achieve your goals while you’re in office.”

Szabo:

“Delightfully frustrated at the opportunity to hit homeruns.” Leveraging that warm fuzzy. It’s not the only thing, and it won’t last forever. Leverage points of contact. Become heroes, essential players, special sauce. (Lot of metaphors here.)

Deal with relevance and marketing.

Scheeder:

What are the trends in society that impact libraries? IFLA study. The future is now. Personal, educational level; organizational level (aligned with society); national level (e.g., net neutrality); international level (copyright agreements, e.g.).

Any goal includes information: health policy, economic policy, etc.

We provide information to people for free and the guidance to empower themselves to better their lives.

Haycock:

We could have too many opportunities. What’s the best one to go after?

Szabo:

We need to be tuned into community needs, not just air-conditioned places where cool stuff happens. Information empowers people.

Hill:

Have to say no sometimes. Building adjacencies to things you already do well. The company that makes ATMs went into self-checkin at airlines.

Scheeder:

Have to determine what success looks like. You’re helping people be the best they can be. What is the most pressing need? How do I go about doing what my community needs?

Have people who can tell the story of how you helped them.

Hill:

Staff boots on the ground have to know what the goal is (“take that hill”) and be empowered to make changes as needed.

Haycock:

Using data vs. using stories? Both are good, but you have to know what resonates with your funders. Politicians like to talk about “school readiness.”

Hill:

Using national educational standards to make decisions about programming. Number of people who came in is a proxy for its value.

Scheeder:

Statistics about how people who can’t read are likely to be unemployable and problems for society.

Haycock:

How do we change library culture? We want to study things and roll it out across the system, rather than letting individual branches just do it?

Hill:

We have to do both. It takes 3-5 years to change the culture. Hire for attitude then train for skill. Get people with tech skills. They know what an Adobe upgrade is and don’t need a training class.

Szabo:

Give staff flexibility to pick from a menu of initiatives. Be as innovative as you can without going to jail.

Scheeder:

When new leadership comes in, it’s a chance to try new things. Let a thousand flowers bloom, but you have to make a garden at some point.

Haycock:

The percentage of professional librarians has gone down.

Hill:

When I interview librarians, I find very few that are interested in taking risks. Removed college degree from library assistant job description.

Szabo:

We get greater flexibility from paraprofessionals. I want MLS people to be flexible and innovative, etc.

Scheeder:

Library education is evolving. We should stop making a distinction between traditional and non-traditional librarians. It’s evolving.

Haycock:

Predictions for 5-10 years.

Hill:

How closely we work with our communities. We will relinquish some of that elitist expertise.

Szabo:

Strategic partners with formal education. 0-5, k-12, MOOCs, lifelong learning.

Scheeder:

Academia doesn’t see that MOOCs will disrupt their business, the same way news and publishing have been disrupted. Digital divide can get greater, not smaller. Libraries can make the difference.

Edited to make things clearer.

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