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Talk Out Loud in Your Library

October 21, 2006

“We can’t get where we are going if we let them take us somewhere else.”

I have saved that quote for a long time now.  It was uttered during preparation for a presentation to our library board of trustees on what subject and oh how many years ago now I forget.  But we knew it was true the moment someone gave breath to it.

We have to do our homework and prepare our research in order to make recommendations for the best actions for our customers.

Its not just about what the mayor wants or what the board of trustees thinks might be a great plan.  It cannot happen because one home-school mother suggests it or only when a principal thinks it is a good idea.

What is it and what is it about?

It is what your community needs and it is about what they want.  Not one person nor a survey of suggestive notions.  But ideas and ideals gathered through true interaction with various groups, clubs, organizations, and businesses in your town, city, community.

Talk out loud in your community but do not forget to listen.  Take part in parades, plays, and potluck dinners.  Volunteer to be a lunch buddy at local schools.  Take up tickets at the county fair with philanthropic groups, join a belly dancing class or play on a local softball team.

Take an active role in your local Chamber of Commerce.  Exhibit at local hospital fairs and little league tournaments.  Listen to what these folks are talking about, what their concerns are, what their resource needs might be.

Then talk out loud in your library.  Library staff must communicate, collaborate, and consider the possibilities.  Then we might just get where we are all going.

Compare, compile and conceive new opportunities.  Every staff member has contacts within their own neighborhood, their own church, their own country club, pool hall or women’s group.  Support staff as they participate outside the library in their personal and family events.  Then invite them to come together, make recommendations and develop valuable insights into all different aspects of how your community thrives, about how those community members need the library to exist.

This is “How much do we bend to meet our users? How much do we expect them to bend to meet us?” as Jessamyn asked recently in the customer is always… what?

The customers, as a whole, are always right.  They mandate our services and pay our health care.  It cannot be a singular existence.  We must take the initiative but only after we know their directions in order to provide valuable personal experiences.

We can integrate “new and improved” programs and products only when we are sure they are ready and able.  This is what Library 2.0 is all about, what the Journey from Good to Great means.  If Web 2.0 tools and online social networking are helpful to your taxpayers, then great!  If not, find out what is to their benefit.  In some community libraries it possibly could be filling multiple requests or renewing items for vacationing patrons.

How else can we provide them with what they think is right unless we know them, are part of them, and trust them as friends and neighbors?

Thanks, Jessamyn, for asking…!!

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