Be quarrelsome : play devil’s advocate

QSometimes you need to turn everything you thought was “right” on its head to find the answer. You need to look at the other side of the argument, to ensure that you are actually doing what is best for your customers.

It might feel scary, and it might challenge everything you hold dear to your library, but without actually looking at what we do through another lens, how can you be sure that you are on the best path alongside your customers?

Opportunities are often found in the most unlikely places, and by continually questioning what we do, we open ourselves up to new & exciting possibilities, and we also clarify our purpose.

What if … we invested, promoted, encouraged, published, supported Open Access & Open Source?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we asked refugees to design our new Community Languages space?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we out-sourced our school holiday programmes?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we lowered all the top shelf so that it was accessible by anyone in a wheelchair?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we invited our students to become staff in our libraries?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we reduced our opening hours?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we stopped subscribing to digital products which weren’t user-friendly?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we aligned everything we do with “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities“? **

What if … we didn’t?

What if … libraries cease to exit tomorrow?

What if … they don’t?

** RD Lankes. 2011. Atlas of New Librarianship MIT Press.

Be known : what are you famous for?

KMake a choice, as a library, to be well-known. I am not talking about being known for being nice, friendly, or open. These sorts of things should be a given, not an aspiration.

Choose a point of difference. Find your niche. Create your unique selling point. Commit to doing it well. Commit to doing it very well. Be known for that awesome thing.

What if … your library was known as “best little public library in New Zealand“? Imagine the marketing campaign!

What if … your library was known for sourcing & actively supporting Open Access research publishing outputs? Imagine if your special library collection & its staff were a key selling point for your research organisation!

What if … your library was known for incredible availability of staff & resources – online & in person? If your academic library is open from 7am until midnight, to increase access for your “seldom-on-campus” or your “working full-time & studying part-time” student communities, then commit to more staff in non-traditional business hours to reward students & teaching staff with guaranteed access to library staff & resources. Imagine if your breakfast or evening shifts were the busiest part of the day!

What if … you committed to all staff (all the way up to your Head Librarian) in your library being known for their amazing Reader’s Advisory abilities? Invest in staff training. Commit to the creation of amazing Reading Journeys. Make connections between your fiction & non-fiction collections, adult & youth collections. Ensure that your community taps into staff RA knowledge. Imagine if your community then ultimately contributed to the collective Reader’s Advisory knowledge base by sharing their own Reading Maps!

What if … your school library was known for its digital savvy? Ask your students to support other students & staff in learning about ICT tools. Create your own apps. Commit to entering every single digital competition you can find, such as Mix&Mash. Imagine if you kept count of all the competitions you win!

A lot of these ideas might involve some significant change of thought about the philosophy of existence of your library, changes to how & who you hire, why you collect, and where staff focus their energies.

Massey University is known for its APA Interactive tool via OWLL (Online Writing and Learning Link).

Christchurch City Libraries is known for its fantastic digital content, especially its kids pages.

Other libraries know that this content is fabulous, so instead of re-inventing the wheel, you might notice that they’ve supplemented their library website with “See Christchurch City Libraries site for more great content”.

These are just New Zealand two examples where the decision has been made to resource & support the development of being “well-known” for something awesome. Achieving this takes vision, and the commitment of staff/time/resources/money, but it shows that outstanding “known-ness” as a result is well-worth the investment.

Ask your community for ideas about what could be your unique known quality, and then find a way to reduce or eliminate the busywork of library staff to achieve your “be known” awesome. Show others how it is be done. Be a leader in your chosen niche.