Two keys to success become apparent when you review the transformations so many libraries have achieved in recent years. The most important is community involvement, and that means much more than simple publicity, marketing, and fundraising efforts. It has meant making community leaders and all residents an integral part of the planning and execution of the library’s whole turnabout—from early in the process until it is finished—which ensures their interest, satisfaction with the result, civic pride, and continued participation.
The Gold Coast Public Library (GCPL), Glen Head, NY, wouldn’t exist if it had not been for Girl Scout Troop #61. In 1997, when working to meet the requirements for the ”My Community” badge, one young scout asked her leader, “Why doesn’t our community have a library?” This was just the first step in a long process spearheaded by devoted residents. GCPL opened in summer 2005, when residents overwhelmingly voted to establish the library district. The library adopted the slogan, “Powered by Community.” This community values libraries and the services they offer. As such, GCPL strives to add programs that bring old and new patrons together and foster the sense of community. Our newest book club, “Cook the Book,” does both. The cookbook collection is a hot section and, therefore, one of our best sources of new service ideas. The club, inspired by an article in a local paper about programs available in libraries, brings together patrons who love to cook over a meal and conversation about cooking and recipes.
A big part of improving library user experience is designing libraries based on user preferences and behavior. There’s no way to optimize touchpoints or create meaningful services if you don’t know anything about who you’re trying to serve, right? Many libraries collect and analyze user opinions, but fewer dive deeper into examining actual user behavior.
In 2010, two young fathers, Forrest Register and Vince Edge, decided that a direct appeal to local government from citizens of the city of Dothan and its surrounding Houston County, AL, could help transform their community into one in which their children would grow up educated and happy and perhaps even want to stay as adults. Their first priority was to infuse new energy and relevance into the lethargic Houston County Library System (HCLS): at the time headquartered at a downtown branch that few people visited, although it was open seven days a week.
I knew I had met a creative force when I called Gale Bacon to let her know that the Belgrade Community Library, MT, had been named LJ’s 2015 Best Small Library in America, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She was enthusiastic but cool-headed on the phone, immediately cooking away on ideas for how to leverage the award. After meeting her at a celebration at the library in February, I am in awe of this director’s savvy and dedication to expanding support for her library. She took what anyone would consider a success story for Belgrade and turned it into a success story for the whole state—while keeping the people of Belgrade front and center.
Elevator pitches, anger about open access, unsung heroes, and more letters to the editor from the March 15, 2015 issue of Library Journal.
Amy Dodson was named Director of the Douglas County Public Library System, NV; Bobby Roberts retired as Director of the Central Arkansas Library System, and more people news from the March 15, 2015 issue of Library Journal.
IMLS announces finalists for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service; Illinois awards $15.2 million in library grants, and more news briefs from the March 15, 2015 issue of Library Journal.
Through her research, teaching, and mentoring of grad students at the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M), Rebekah Willett works to narrow the gulf between the often enclosed academic arena and the outside world. “By offering students [opportunities] in ‘real world’ situations, I aim to connect their experiences to theories and ideas we’re covering in class,” deepening both, she says.