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Food for thought from TBLC Strategic Reality Check

Tampa Bay Library Consortium

TBLC hosted a “Strategic Reality Check” workshop at Fruitville Library on Monday, May 17, 2010. The workshop was led by professional library consultants George Needham and Joan Frye Williams. This was an opportunity for area library professionals to examine ways they might reassess the success with which their libraries were serving patrons. The idea was to do so without scrapping missions and strategic plans and other long-range, expensive and time-consuming initiatives.

There were concerns about user friendliness and some novel ideas exchanged during the process. One of these was offered by a Pinellas County librarian who explained a novel acquisitions effort underway at her library. She explained that they’d observed an approximate waiting list number which, when reached, made waiting for bestsellers unattractive. At this point, patrons were more inclined to go by the book at a bookseller than to wait for a library copy. Their solution was to offer patrons the opportunity to purchase the book they sought on behalf of the library with the privilege of being the first to borrow it. They might then take a tax deduction for donating the book. A piece of the library’s acquisitions budget would then be freed for other purposes.

Another burgeoning concept with possible wider implications was outlined by Mr. Needham and Ms. Frye Williams. They asked participants to list major life passages such as retirement, starting a family, battling cancer, going to college, etc. They proposed the possibility of organizing the physical (and electronic) collections under these headings and explained that a public library in Europe was already working with it.

Finally, one small observation had to do with the hoops we require patrons to jump through in order to obtain a library card. This one might or might not have an easy fix to it. If we’re able to (and accustomed to) easily establish a user account at the web site of a commercial enterprise and retrieve lost passwords easily at these places, why then do we require potential library users to show up with photo ID in person along with proof of their physical address in order to use the public library?  Someone moving to a new town may possibly have a more difficult time obtaining a library card than they would changing over their drivers’ license.

Thanks to TBLC for access to this food for thought.

[AB, 5/25/2010]

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