what are the most important things on which libraries should be working?

There are a lot of folks with whom I like talking library shop that I don’t get to hook up with on a regular basis. So I emailed a few of them and asked:

What are the most important things on which libraries should be working?

Maybe this blogging by proxy will get them inspired to get started on their own. To make it fun (and to not take up a bunch of their time) I asked them to limit their responses to three sentences. Here’s what they had to say, which is varied but all interesting! Add your thoughts below.

Jim Scheppke, Oregon State Librarian

Public libraries should work to become the #1 provider of early literacy services to their communities, especially to low income and non-English-speaking families.

All libraries should more aggressively be moving their products and services to the Web, shifting resources away from traditional services, if necessary, to make the investment we need to make in the future.

We should think strategically and plan for the coming e-book revolution, which, despite what some might like to believe, is going to happen sooner or later.

Mary Auckland, library consultant in the UK

In university libraries I think we should be working on ensuring the students get all the information sources needed to successfully complete their courses and at the moment that continues to include provision of adequate print resources as well as electronic. I think students will increasingly want their information delivered to them wherever they are in electronic form, and they will want images and sound not just text, in easy to find and use ‘units’. Finally I think we need to continue to provide study space that meets a variety of learning and collaborating styles and provides environments that are relaxed and comfortable.

Alan Kirk Gray, Assistant Director, Darien Public Library

Libraries should, first, be working to improve their efficiency and cost-effectiveness by reorganizing outmoded work processes, rigorously outsourcing such routine clerical tasks as book processing and abandoning efforts to fine tune MARC records.

Second, they should be making an all-out effort to benchmark the exemplary practices of the most successful of their fellow libraries in similar communities — adopting and adapting them wherever possible.

Third, they should band together in peer groups of ten libraries each, distributed nationally so they are at a distance from one another, and contract jointly for a full-blown web site redesign that incorporates a state-of-the-art Content Management infrastructure, integrated Customer Management applications, fully-developed social software attributes and a link to their ILS, with the agreement each library may skin the resulting deliverable in its own image and fill it with its own content, with the result that each library receives the benefit of significant professional work product at one-tenth the going rate.

Sue Polanka, Head of Reference and Instruction, Wright State University

Creating content, either digitizing unique special collections or assisting faculty/students/public users with the same and allowing this data to be searched. Investigating what our users are doing and trying to reach them with library services at the point of need, and the device of choice – phone, iPod, laptop, etc. etc.. Carefully watching the publishing industry to guarantee we aren’t paying for content which will be released to search engines based on advertising revenues.

Barbara Kesel, Library Automation Systems Supervisor, Washington County Cooperative Library Services

Public libraries could be working on community involvement; both getting the community into the library and connected to the library and valuing library services, as well as getting the library into the community so that we’re seen as an important and desired player in the civic arena. We also have a great deal to gain by recruiting bright, enthusiastic, diverse, energetic, and technologically savvy folks to the profession. And lastly, I’d like to see libraries work on making the library experience enjoyable and fun for employees and patrons alike.

Thanks for taking the time to respond everyone.

7 thoughts on “what are the most important things on which libraries should be working?”

  1. I echo Alan’s point and firmly believe that we need to improve interfaces / web site design of all of our electronic products. I’ve just been talking about this with my reference class, and if the interface OR results page are too confusing / difficult to use, the majority of our patrons WON’T. Particularly those who have never used us in the past; particularly those who grew up with Google.

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  3. I believe that all libraries need to be working on marketing and advocating. We need our communities to understand the value of their library to their community. This includes their friends groups, foundations, etc. I agree with everything above, especially Alan Kirk Gray’s comments, but if we don’t raise the awareness of the value of libraries nation-wide (world-wide?), it does not matter what we do – we will not survive.

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