Monday, May 12, 2008

Jamie LaRue's Vision Keynote: the 21st century library needs to be community-centric

Jamie LaRue is Director of the Douglas County Libraries in Colorado and author of The New Inquisition: Understanding and Managing Intellectual Freedom Challenges. Last week he keynoted Wisconsin’s "Strategic Visioning Summit on the Future of the Library." The following notes are a mixture of what I jotted down at the time and points he reiterates on his blog.

His presentation covered four themes, six trends, five numbers that matter, and two big ideas:

Four themes:

  • save our stories
  • libraries mean business
  • libraries make citizens
  • family literacy

Six trends:

  • self-service
  • merchandising
  • emergent literacy
  • community reference
  • convergence of libraries and museums
  • passing the torch

Five numbers that matter (especially as statistical trends):

  • staff / 1,000 served
  • total expenditures per capita
  • library visits per capita
  • circulation per capita
  • program attendance per capita

Two big ideas:

  • statewide library card
  • public library districts

He noted:

the Colorado library card idea was actually easy enough to do (aside from politics!), and cost almost nothing. The library district has been clearly shown to be the most effective kind of public library, because it ties the funding to the actual users.

LaRue included several useful observations along the way, such as “every library employee believes themselves to be a graphic design wizard -- they are wrong; libraries need to require consistent use of fonts, graphics and colors" and "if you want to move materials, build displays, not bibliographies." In support of community reference, he encouraged libraries to put reference librarians into the community and let paraprofessional staff handle the 84% of reference questions that don't need a librarian.

"Easy enough (aside from politics!)" -- I like the optimism of that. One more: "The library should be the hearthstone around which storytellers gather."

The final report of the Strategic Visioning Summit will be released later this year.


melodyhanson said...

Larue's book, The New Inquisition, was one of the texts for an Intellectual Freedom seminar I recently completed. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in and/or invovled in challenges to library materials. Very helpful.

Jamie said...

Hey Terry, good summary, and thanks for the link to the Economic Impact slideshow. I look forward to seeing what comes out of the summit.

Anonymous said...

--libraries need to require consistent use of fonts, graphics and colors" and "if you want to move materials, build displays, not bibliographies." --

I really like this idea. How can users identify our materials from a distance when they always look different? I think library staff worry patrons will get bored with materials that look the same, but in reality patrons spend so little time looking at them that consistency helps them identify our publicity materials among the thousands of others they are confronted with daily. -- That doesn't mean that consistent has to be boring or ugly either. I guess its just developing a complete brand that is flexible and identifiable.

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