Library Planning Research,  Social Library Issues

Library Building in Times of Change

The extend to which historic libraries are able to thrive and succeed as a community resource depends on the kinds of services and opportunities the library builds. Libraries are more likely to behave in ways that undermine their chances for success when they are NOT connected to strategic planning. Libraries that do not program their services, receive little feedback and are ill-equipped to assess their prospects for success and are therefor less able to build the confidence they need to proactively seek improvements.

According to “Reframe Advocacy to Highlight Library’s Essential Services” Laura O’Grady (Library Director – Hershey Public Library) argues that portraying libraries as a essential service when deciding how to spend a shrinking municipal budget is critical. The library is not just a quiet haven for books and it shouldn’t be put in comparison to a new police car. This is like comparing apples to oranges.

  • By not specifically highlighting how the work of public libraries impacts disadvantaged populations we’re simultaneously selling ourselves short, reinforcing the idea that libraries are for some and not all, and slowly but surely digging our own grave. Our advocacy must start getting real about who is using our libraries and for what reasons.

Our research confirms that library data of the past is simply not accurate today. While books have been part of libraries since their beginning, public libraries have always been organizations where those of lesser means can come and access educational resources, build a new work of resources, learn a new language or skill. When libraries are more embedded with the communities needs, they are also aware of opportunities to share resources, support education, job skills and literacy.

Most libraries struggle with the multitude of challenges – building, staff and access to collections. We need to avoid the failures that can affect the libraries ability to thrive and succeed. This includes loosing focus on what is important. Below are important findings from PLA Survey on Libraries (Public Libraries Respond to COVID-19: Survey of Response & Activities Libraries Respond: COVID-19 Survey Results (May 2020). It clearly shows the opportunities for libraries to continue to build a better future for the communities they serve.

A few years ago, we saw a classic example of the multitude of challenges dynamic playing out at the E. Norwalk Public Library in which community leaders noticed that students of lesser means didn’t use the library’s books. The community came together and participated in workshops, students joined the discussions and told us to improve conditions with a homework space for disadvantaged youth. Our research showed that the library is a learning space. All libraries need to plan for students and encourage activities for them to build skills.

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AARON COHEN ASSOCIATES, LTD have developed a series of programmatic models that help define the variables for success. What our clients found and realized, however, is that it is not easy. It requires belief’s in differences of opinion and self-confidence to take on the responsibility of our national library treasures.