This library is your library

In my class on Maker Spaces, we are discussing innovation: where it arises, how to encourage it, and how it manifests in different personal styles.

One article we read this week is It’s All Around You: Creating a Culture of Innovation, which offers several suggestions for inspiring innovation. These range from putting whiteboards at watering holes to creating innovation prompts to taking (and sharing) photos of unique things. The author even suggests that “libraries should have analog developer environments” akin to the dev spaces used for software and web prototyping. I’m not sure exactly how that would manifest as a physical space (one room set aside as the “dev library”?), but I was intrigued.

But what really caught my eye was the section in which the author discusses public involvement:

“People have a lot of personal attachment to their home libraries, and with that a need for customization. By bringing more of our patrons into the conversation, we can improve those feelings of involvement across the board, hopefully upping our usage in the process.”

I’m not convinced there’s a real idea here — what does it mean to “bring patrons in to the conversation” and how does that relate to creating an innovation cultur? — but it inspired new ideas in ME!

How can you make a public library your library?

What does “customization” mean in a library context?

How about these ideas:

  1. Capital One allows you to upload your own photo to personalize the printed card. This is absolutely brilliant. It probably costs Capital One basically nothing. Card owners feel more invested and connected to their “personal” card — and probably more likely to use THAT card versus other ones in their wallet! Why not give library patrons the same option for their library cards?
  2. If it’s your library, then they’re your books. (Literally so, in the taxpayer-supported sense.) Why not bookplates? I raised this idea at my public library as a thank-you recognition for our volunteers, and we tried it out. Volunteers get to pick any book, and we put a thank-you bookplate in that says “Volunteers: A Gift to the Community” and “So-n-so invites you to love this book.” Volunteers love it!
  3. If it’s your library, you get to influence the hours. Can we poll patrons to find out what hours would suit them best?
  4. If it’s your library, you get to pick the books. For most libraries, new books are selected and purchased by an expert librarian without direct patron involvement. Our library takes book suggestions from patrons, but the patron has to initiate that suggestion, and I suspect that many patrons don’t even know that this is an option. Further, there is no guarantee that the suggestion can or will be followed, and no timeline for when it might happen. Could we periodically put out a list of candidate books and let patrons vote? We could then feature the resulting purchases in a display to emphasize that “These are the books you chose!”

This is a brainstorm, so some of these ideas won’t be feasible or might not be effective. But let’s keep thinking creatively.

What would make you feel more invested in and engaged in your public library?

1 of 2 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Marcy said,

    March 13, 2014 at 8:29 am

    (Knew it already.)

    It’s funny that you would mention those particular suggestions because my library does 3 out of 4 of those. (#2-4):

    2. No book plates, but book marks. They encourage you to put a Recommended bookmark in your favorite books and write on the bookmark about why it’s so awesome.

    3. When the library had to cut its hours, there were lots of surveys.

    4. The place to suggest books to purchase is on the website and a number of books I’ve requested have been bought (and then I’m automatically put on hold and get to be the first one to read them!).

    It’s true, these are reasons why I’m so personally invested in my library. It’s totally My library.

  2. Brittany said,

    March 13, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I love ideas 1 & 2! I think SFPL holds a contest for library card design, and patrons get to choose their own design.

    At my library, we basically buy ANYTHING a student or instructor wants. Of course, budgeting varies from library to library, but I’m a big fan of patron-driven acquisition!

    I love SFPL and I really don’t have anything unfavorable to say. Once I tried requesting an item that I thought they should purchase for the collection. I suggest they come up with some sort of notification/follow-up design that tells the patron if the request was processed, rejected or even at all considered. It’s the idea of closing the loop. If a patron gives feedback, then they need to know that it didn’t just fall into a black hole!

  3. Claire said,

    March 19, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    Yes, I think these are great ideas! Patron requests seem to be pretty common, but libraries could benefit from making this option more well known to patrons. Almost anytime one of my patrons asks for a book we don’t own, I offer to put in a request to purchase it. And we’ve done bookplates when a person donates that particular book, or especially in memoriam. But I think it would be nice to incorporate the volunteers in some way, whether it be a bookplate or a bookmark on a special display.

    I do think that these innovations to make the library more customizable will really pay off with your patrons. And that’s who we’re here for anyways!

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