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t h r e a d s 83 coMMunities One of the things I learned in library school is that when people have an information need, they’ll always ask people they know before they ask a librarian. The trick is making sure that librarians are some of the people they know. —Jessamyn West the Mission oF Librarians is to iMprove society through FaciLitating KnowLedge creation in their coMMunities We begin as we begin every thread, with the mission of the librarian. To this point, we have explored the need for a mission and its corresponding worldview. We have explored the nature of knowledge and its creation through conversation. We have also looked at means of facilitating knowledge creation through access, knowledge, environment , and motivation. However, even with examples and stories, we have yet to see prescriptive advice and detailed service plans. You may be asking, “So what exactly should I be doing?” The very short answer is: Ask your community. Do your members need collections? Do they need digital libraries? Do they even need a building? Ask your community. I realize for some of you, this may seem like a cop out. However, you should have seen it coming. After all, I did spend a good amount of time on co-ownership with the community and the importance of developing a social compact. But let’s take an example: Should a public library offer story hours in the morning? It may seem like a simple question, and many libraries do. However , to whom do these services cater? According to the Population Reference Bureau,1 “Only 7 percent of all U.S. households consisted of married couples with children in which only the husband worked. Dual-income families with children made up more than two times as many households.” So are these public libraries intentionally offering a service to an elite few who can afford to either stay home with their children or have a nanny who can take the kids to story hour? Of course, there are plenty of potential reasons to offer story hours in the mornings: parents who can’t afford child care and have to stay home with the kids, nontraditional child care such as cooperatives , and even the fact that in your community there is a healthysized number of families with a parent who stays home out of choice. My point is not to have all story hours in the evening but to make sure you know why you are offering them in the morning and that the decision was a mutual one with the community. In the end, the primary tactic advocated throughout this Atlas is what Mike Eisenberg called the “Anti-Field of Dreams Model.” Rather than build it and they will come, it is invite them in and then scramble like hell to meet the needs they bring. Of course, you need something to invite them into, but there are already plenty of libraries that exist; if you are the entire library (a one-librarian library), then you are the bait. You are the loss leader to find out what they need. Let me give you an example of the importance of seeking community input in determining library service. I grew up in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, called Glendale. Glendale is one of those towns that looks like a patch of trees next to its more developed neighbors in Google Maps. It has a population of 2,500; is on the National Historic Registry; and has a quaint village, grand old Victorian homes, a tiny train museum, and, as of two years ago, a library three days a week. The library was started by a group of residents who thought that every community needs a library. They started with a book drive and a volunteer core. The donated books now line the shelves of a building that was once a library closed decades ago but more recently a community center. It is not a well-trafficked library, however. Initial book club meetings have shrunk, and walk-in traffic is limited (a person or two a day). When you think about it, why does Glendale need a library consisting mostly of second-hand books the residents have already read? These are folks with broadband, ready access to Amazon, an easy drive to three existing public libraries, and well-stocked school libraries. Instead of building a shared book resource, why not build a volunteer corps of “citizen librarians?” Send this corps into the...


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