there's a stranger in the library!

I suspect that the majority of library users out there are repeat visitors. They’ve gotten over whatever barriers to service we erect and have made the library a part of their lives. I’ve been able to recognize, at least by face if not by name, most of the people coming to the points of service I’ve worked in libraries.

I’ve also noticed people’s library use getting deeper as more time passes. Perhaps at first they come in to to simply check out a DVD or use a computer. After more visits during which the relationship is grown they’re more apt to talk about the book they’re checking out, or ask for some help.

This makes sense. Engaging strangers in smalltalk is one thing, but in a library setting there’s often little motivation to go beyond that. So besides being friendly and open, how can libraries and librarians build relationships with people?

Museum 2.0 has some advice that certainly pertains to in-house (and online) library services:

Creating a place for participation is not enough. To design spaces that encourage participation, you have to find ways to offer users mediating objects, rules, and events, and enough non-uniformity to allow intimate moments to slip through. And the hardest part? You have to do it in a way that feels accidental, surprising, and authentic. Otherwise you just become another guy in a bunny suit, people hurriedly passing by.

I’m immediately reminded of the Thinkering Spaces that Jenny Levine has been posting about. The bit about “mediating objects, rules and events” makes me think that libraries should offer more content (maybe specifically story) creation projects for people in the library.

See the rest of the post at Museum 2.0 for her list of “list of conditions for non-compulsory participatory encounters with strangers.”

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