Friday, November 20, 2009

"The Library is no place for children"

Followers of my Twitter stream yesterday will have seen my verbatim quote from an irate library patron:
"The library is no place for children - they should be out roaming the hills. If you keep encouraging them I'll stop coming".

How do you argue with that ... its like arguing whether the sky is blue or not. But as librarians we have to argue because the sad reality is that their truly are people out there who actually believe this.

The complaint was sparked by a change in layout made at her local library. The clients who use the library borrow insignificant amounts of library material, so low that we are seriously having to justify keeping the branch open, situated as it is in its prime Main Street position. Yet visitor counts are up - way up - we are busy, busy, busy. But we aren't converting visitor usage to issues. And maybe thats okay, maybe this community doesn't want to borrow library materials, maybe books just aren't important, maybe homelife is so muddled that library items just aren't safe taken home, maybe people are laughed at if they pull a book out at home. This community is statistically poorer, browner, younger, older and less educated than other communities in our District.

But we are not giving up this without a fight. We have completely turned the collection profile on its head, adjusted the focus on what resources and services are available and have sought help from a successful retailer in terms of marketing and presentation.

We think it is really important to encourage kids into the library and we will be shameless in employing whatever method we think will work.

And if we lose an old biddy in the process then so be it.

3 comments:

alisonwallbutton said...

No doubt that will be me complaining when if I live into retirement and begin haunting warm public buildings instead of burning my own electricity at home! I clearly remember when I worked in a big public library a group of older customers deliberately moving themselves from one issue queue full of noisy kids, to the second one that opened up. These two user groups have very different needs. However, as I have said somewhere else, are we tough enough to make the big calls when designing our library services? How long can we go on trying to cater to everyone equally? Here you are doing just that - weighing up the greater need and responding to that. Good on you! I'd be interesting in reading a bit more about your experiences with the successful retailer (I am guessing who that might be!), and some before and after photos would be great.

Joann Ransom said...

Just got back from visiting the library and it looks stunning! SO spacious and fresh and welcoming :) There was a young mum reading picturebooks to her kids and a steady stream of young and old coming through the door. Forgot to take to before photos (silly, silly us) but will definitely post up after ones!

alisonwallbutton said...

I went past this library over the break and the frontage looks fantastic! (Material for another blog post for me I think ;-)