Community engagement #newlib #MOOC

It’s the end of Week Two of the New Librarianship Master Class, with all sorts of things being discussed, including a strong focus on Community.

I’ve been challenged this week to think about:

  • the pressure from communities to change/improve/invent a raft of new/different/other services,
  • the pressure to interact with learners within their chosen environment,
  • the pressure to participate in ways that don’t match the “rules & regulations” of the organisation.

This concept of community pressure is also related to scarcity/abundance. If options in a community are limited, then there may be increased pressure to be everything to everyone, and the community may demand a wider range of services than if there is a choice to access information & services in other ways.

We all face pressure from our communities. How we choose to engage with our communities, how we respond to that pressure, how we ignore that pressure, how we react to that pressure – these are the challenges we need to address.

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Wrapping up the #alphabet series

I made it all the way through to the end!

It’s been challenging & rewarding to have a focus to explore collections & customers, and it’s broadened my vocabulary as well. It has also opened up new conversations with people about their collections, their communities & their ideas. I’ve now got plenty of other tangents that I want to explore.

A few readers have asked me if I would publish this #alphabet series as an ebook or as a podcast, so I am going to investigate the logistics to make it happen, and I will keep you posted on developments. If anyone has any experience or advice to offer, then please do get in touch.

At the end of this series, I remain convinced by the need to continually engage with our communities to create customer focused collections. I am also adamant that we need to regularly review & question our professional practices, to ensure that we connect the dots in meaningful & imaginative ways for our communities.

For the remainder of July, I will be stepping back from an #alphabet post every two days to a weekly post, reflecting on my participation in the New Librarianship Master Class MOOC.


Be zebrine : find your uniqueness

ZI had no idea that this was an actual word until I started searching for ideas for this final #alphabet post.

Zebrine = pertaining to, or resembling, the zebra.

Zebras are unique. I recently learned that a zebra’s stripes are like human fingerprints, no two sets of zebra stripes are the same (apparently it’s the same for a giraffe’s spotted coat). And yet, unless you looked closely, you’d probably say that all zebras in a herd looked the same. Taken away from their herd, a single zebra stands out as being pretty darn unique.

So what has this got to do with libraries?

Well, it’s got me thinking that we are often lumped together into one amorphous term, “libraries” or “librarians”. Similar to a zebra herd, we probably all do look the same to the outsider when herded together. And yet, it is our uniqueness that sets us apart from each other.

We might all have information & content & services, some of which might be the same or similar, however, it is the way in which we function, the customers we serve, our location(s), the services we offer,which are all unique to our specific library. We might have similar #why, #how, #where, #when we collect, and yet it is our actual existence & delivery that is unique, if you will, “zebrine”.

Absolutely, let’s stand together as a herd – share our collective knowledge, celebrate our successes, reflect on our “didn’t-quite-work” events, and tell our stories. We can share best practice, develop collaborative approaches and present a united, cohesive professional voice.

However, let us serve our communities in own our unique ways. Being closely aligned as libraries and librarians is important, but being unique will ensure better connections with our customers. Being zebrine offers us opportunities for meaningful conversations with our customers to develop the means to facilitate learning in our communities (RD Lankes’ mission statement resonates again & again for me).

So put on your zebra stripes & head out into the wild of your community. Share your adventures. Tell your stories. Celebrate your uniqueness.

Be yodeling : celebrate what shouldn’t work


Sometimes the things you least expect to work do in fact exceed your expectations.

If I said “I’ve got tickets for tonight’s comedy folk act, want to join me?”, you might respond “not in a million years”.

Because, as Paul Horan wrote, “On paper, yodeling lesbian twins don’t really work.” And yet, the Topp Twins work (bet you wish you’d said yes to the show tickets now don’t you?). Another Kiwi folk duo, Flight of the Conchords, probably shouldn’t work either, but they do. Neither are what you would call mainstream acts, and that is possibly the reason why they do work. They aren’t aiming for middle-of-the-road, guaranteed-to-work shows. They are quirky and unexpected.

What if … you made a list of all the crazy “it’ll never work” ideas? Then ask ‘why not’. Are you comfortable the answers? Instead of focusing on why something shouldn’t work, why not just focus on why & how it could work? Then make it happen.

What if … you had a borrowable telescope? Ann Arbor District Library does.

What if … you checked out musical instruments? Lopez island Library does.

What if … you could check out a garden allotment? LibraryFarm exists.

What if … you could spark conversations & encouraging reminiscing amongst older members of your community? Ann Arbor District Library offers a range of different themed kits to do this.

What if … you offered programmes for 20-30 year olds? Sacramento Public Library does.

What if … you created a collaborative space for artists & librarians? Library as Incubator exists.

For more ideas & inspiration, check out the Pew Internet article on Innovative library services “in the wild”. Make sure you yodel while you read it.

Be x : find the treasure


Take a moment to picture a pirate’s treasure map.

Which letter is typically used to mark the spot of the buried treasure?


What if … you viewed your library as an X?

A treasured place. A space to hide treasure. A place to discover treasure. A space to create treasure. A place to learn about treasure. A space to share treasure. A place to leave treasure. A space to find treasure.

What if … you hid geocaches within your library?

What if … you re-configured your Reader’s Advisory approach as a discovery of treasures?

What if … you re-imagined your physical layout as a treasure map, leading the way to incalculable riches?

What if … your annual community day *always* featured a treasure hunt?

What if … you re-developed your membership pack to present a library card as a ticket to untold treasures? A Golden Ticket à la Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.

What if … you re-named your recent returns to “customer recommendations” to allow others to discover the treasures?

What if … you asked “is this truly a treasure?” when weeding your collections?

What if … you randomly picked a digital collection item that would generate a winning “ticket” with a reward for the next customer?

What if … you started to believe in the magic of hidden treasure?