For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
February 19, 2009 - what next?
Two weeks ago I described the library's core mission and vision. Last week I talked about some financial challenges we face (along with everybody else). This week, I'd like to talk about what we actually plan to do over the next three years.
Given that the library's central role in our society is to be an advocate for literacy and for lifelong learning, the library will focus first on reading and authors. That strategy has three big components:
* Children's Storytimes. I've written here before that 48% of our business is children's materials, and that we check out more kids' book than any library in the state, when we have neither the most children, nor the most children's materials. How do we do that? By offering lots of children's storytimes. These days, we work hard to underscore the essential traits of something called "emergent literacy" -- not only getting kids ready to read, but getting them to really want to read. That connection from early exposure to stories, and later fluency in reading, will be explored and strengthened in years to come. We're also launching some longitudinal studies: tracking our storytime kids as they get into school, and demonstrating the extraordinary value of storytime attendance in everything from empathy to academic performance.
* Power Walls. Our cutting edge experiments in library materials merchandising at our Roxborough and Lone Tree libraries have demonstrated that we can move more materials in less space. The technique is the "power wall" -- a face-out display of topics our continuous stream of statistics tell us Douglas County residents most want. We'll be installing power walls in the rest of our libraries in coming weeks -- Highlands Ranch, Parker, and Philip S. Miller -- to bring this merchandising tool closer to our front doors. Typically, most libraries have about 75-80% of their materials in the building at any time. At our Lone Tree Library, we regularly have more than 50% checked out. Power walls make it easier to find what you want, with less hassle.
* Authors. We do three key things now: our Authors @ Douglas County Libraries (in cooperation with the good folks at the Network DC), our author talks here in the library, and our hosting of writer conferences. We'll be looking for ways to strengthen and coordinate these programs. We know that the interest is keen -- there are a lot of would-be authors in this county. Encouraging people to write books is one way to make sure that tomorrow's library shelves will be populated!
A second big focus of the library is in building community. Our restructuring of staff (after the installation of our self-check stations) means we now have the ability to set loose our reference librarians not only from their desks, but from the library building itself.
Over the next several years, library staff will interview community leaders, and identify projects where we can add significant value (primarily through research and presentation of relevant resources). Each library branch will focus on at least one major regional project, working with other community partners to solve real problems.
Two other projects round out the plan. First is the collection of YOUR stories. Not a day goes by in the library when we don't hear a new and fascinating story about why you came to us, and what you're working on. We'd like to capture and feature those stories. They're an inspiration.
Finally, there's a revolution well underway in the use of mobile devices. The library has a role to play, perhaps as the digital jukebox for the ever-growing playlist of books, music and movies. Perhaps, also, we can do a more efficient linking of our community not just to random bits of information, but to actual knowledge, and online communities dedicated to that purpose.
In all, these projects assure that the library will continue to be what it has always been: a vital heartbeat in the center of our thriving community.
LaRue's Views are his own.