libraries build communities, don’t you think?

Ten leading library experts were posed this question in the Spring issue of [SirsiDynix’s] Upstream: "What is the best example of libraries building communities that you have come across or experienced? How will libraries in the future be empowered to play even a greater role in their communities?" One of those experts was me (1.2 MB pdf), and at least a few other people you’ll probably recognize.

While I feel a little weird acting as if this library/community thing was something we’ve all recently discovered, it’s still great to hear everyone’s take on it, and I’m always happy to be able to say nice things about my favorite libraries.

5 thoughts on “libraries build communities, don’t you think?

  1. I agree that it has suddenly seemed sort of trendy to talk about libraries & community building, as if … we haven’t been doing it all the while. I am conscious that my/Steven’s work for our book (small beans compared to the real community building work that libraries are doing) is maybe adding to that. It’s good though that there’s a new bit of energy about the topic, and I’m also hopeful that the good stuff, the success stories of libraries doing community-focused programs, collections, etc. will come out through all of the … “diverse community of commitment-centered” (taken from the book I’m currently reading – Slam Dunks & No Brainers – can’t remember the author) hub-bub.

  2. yeah, I still have to go read the rest of the blurbs once I can print the thing out. To me, the interesting question is (sort of as I said ) “Why don’t ALL libraries build community?” because obviously that’s what they should be doing, public libraries anyhow. Around here sometimes it’s funding, or the librarian/board relationship or sometimes a librarian who is at large with her community for one reason or another.

    Back when I was an outreach librarian, it was clear that there was the “library community” in town and then the people who never came to the library. Figuring out why those people didn’t come in — fines they’d gotten as teenagers, reference librarians who were unpleasant to them, can’t talk on cell phones, bad library hours — and seeing what we could do about those things was a really interesting challenge.

    I’m looking forward to reading what you and Steven have written mostly because I’m really interested in the question “what more is there to say about this?” and I’m sure you’ll have several good answers.

  3. [coming back from vacation, though i know this conversation is a bit old now] one thing i’m conscious of: i am a relatively new librarian. most everything is new to me. so what can i contribute to the literature/discourse around community building that isn’t already well known by my veteran colleagues? it certainly is a challenge to sort all that out, and while, perhaps, there is some value in the synthesis & repositioning of some ideas that have been with us for a while, I certainly hope that’s not all we come up with. we’re working on a simple, practical guide (if you will) for community building that libraries can refer to, orient themselves, and use to move towards a next step or new goal. is there anything “new” about that? i’m not entirely sure. but will it be useful? i’m more hopeful about that.

    while on vacation i finished “slam dunks and no brainers: language in your life, the media, business, politics, and, like, whatever” by leslie savan. her chapter on “the community of commitment centered words” reminded me that we have to have intention and, really, integrity around “community-building” when we talk about it, otherwise it’s just a lot of puff. after reading her chapter i went back to one of our chapter drafts with a new eye. we did ok, but there were a few spots where the community puff was hiding real substantive contribution – not surprisingly, our editor noticed something awry in the same spots. so, back to the drawing board…

    one more thing – with all this techy CB stuff going on – there will be something “new” in the positioning of both online & local community building as essentially the same type of activity. but, we’ll see how that goes…

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