Working Together for the Library of the Future, Part II

rod gauvin
by Rod Gauvin

ALTAFF President


In my last column, I asked this question: Why do libraries struggle with funding and patron support when we are living through an information explosion in the sheer quantity of data that is delivered and new information products launched? It is clear that the range of services offered has expanded dramatically in most libraries. But the shift in the purchase of library services has not been followed by an adequate level of patron appreciation and understanding for those digital resources and services — the type of support needed for millage approval and fundraising.

What can we do, individually and collectively, to address this issue?

We are all committed to this “Library of the Future,” which will evolve and offer a new range of services and products that are increasingly digital as libraries continue to be incubators for innovation and application of technology. Libraries and librarians have adopted technology well in advance of the general population served. Most Trustees and Friends groups are also conversant with new technology. These folks represent many potential spokespersons, or citizen journalists capable of capturing new technology success stories that an organization such as ALTAFF can highlight and deliver through its various communication channels.

Storytelling is a powerful technique for reaching hearts and minds. Here is a checklist that I might suggest (challenge is too strong a word) Trustees, Friends groups, and library administrators to consider in framing the value of digital resources to build usage and support from the community:

Setting the stage…

  • Is there a coordinated campaign that seeks to document the use of electronic resources in the library and the value patrons generate from these resources?
  • Does the library staff systematically capture success stories of patron problems that are solved through the use of electronic resources and digital alternatives?
  • Is there a method in place to create a patron story when there is a positive interaction, such as when a genealogy question gets answered or the right resource for a medical challenge or health issue is identified?
  • Are potential spokespersons fully conversant on such current industry studies as the 2010 update to the OCLC “Perception of Library Information and Resources” study or the “Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study” compiled by ALA and the Center for Information Innovation at the University of Maryland? How about the reports available on the research site on ALA Connect?

Reaching out…

  • Is there a designated staff person at the library who communicates with local media? Are the library director and the Board of Trustees working together to connect, at the senior level, with the local media and community leaders?
  • Do members of library staff and the Friends, Trustees and Foundation members serve on other nonprofit (and networking-rich) boards such as the United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, county government, or school boards?
  • Are the success stories and special events reported to ALTAFF, the Public Library Association, or other ALA divisions, for them to leverage and share in campaigns?
  • Are we soliciting help from the vendor community in such a way that the key information providers are also promulgating these success stories and looking to raise the visibility of the digital library of the future?

ALTAFF has a key role to play in setting the framework and standards--and providing guidelines and idea-generators — on how Friends, Foundations, Trustees, and library administration can work more effectively together to mobilize the communities in support of libraries in this evolving yet undefined digital future.

Let us know what training or programs on this topic would be beneficial for your advocates. And please, send us your success stories.

Yours for libraries,

Rod Gauvin

ALTAFF President

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