Libraries, community and innovative services

Libraries, community and innovative servicesThe transformation of libraries is ongoing Some rights reserved

Image: New York Public Library, by New York Public Libraries Digital Central Information on Flickr

Expect more: demanding better libraries for today’s complex world is a free e-book by David Lankes, author of The atlas of new librarianship.

In this inspiring and thought-provoking read, Lankes encourages librarians (from any kind of library) to break down walls to understand our communities better - to look at the needs of the community and be innovative about the services we provide.

There is a lot for libraries to debate. Even though a lot of information is free, quality information costs. Lankes recommends that communities become collective buying agents to be cost effective. Lucky for libraries that buying books still makes sense so long as they can be pooled together as an asset.

I loved his argument that the economic advantage of libraries far outweighed the cost of running libraries. A programme like Transform U was reflective of how public libraries can create a civic environment to appeal to a new customer segment.

According to Lankes, libraries still uphold the concept of learning. And, while literacy is a major focus, research skills and critical thinking within the curriculum are also key.

In the face of economic shrinkage, in a number of countries libraries are also taking on community focused services, which have been removed from  public sector departments. Besides providing free internet access, librarians need to teach, solve and advocate for the community.

Reflecting the past and also the ‘now’ is still very much the path libraries use to usher communities forward. Lankes says it is up to the library to have informed citizens for a functional democracy. For this reason a community relies on the transparency of information provided by a library.

Communities have dreams and aspiration and libraries need to be the place where these dreams are realised says Lankes.

From gaming parlours in Victorian England to art galleries, libraries have had them all - in addition to books. S R Ranganathan’s fifth law of librarianship states libraries to be a ‘growing organism’. It is perhaps for this reason that Lankes encourages libraries to extend services to cover reading, seeing and doing as a route for enlightenment and knowledge creation. So does this mean libraries are the new facilitators? Do they need to provide the platform for knowledge creation and sharing?

He reiterates in his book that:

bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services and great libraries build communities.

Communities should support and expect more of their libraries. Children and teens learn through games and libraries should support them. These are some of the new activities that support learning and great libraries need to find them and add them to their service plan.

Find out more about creating future focused libraries in Modern Library Learning Environments.

Read The bad, the good, and the great: libraries creating communities, which includes a link to David Lankes video on the topic.

By Janice Rodrigues

Janice is a Librarian (Online Services) with Services to Schools.

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