One Florida library system apparently has a problem:
The Hillsborough County Library System tries hard to be all things to all people. Perhaps too hard.
According to the editorial, the libraries are doing all sorts of things. They’re community centers. They have computers. They have game nights, for crying out loud. And all this takes away from their main purpose: books.
Today, the top priorities are more computer labs and more public meeting space. Book collections are deliberately being kept small.
So make no mistake about it. The construction of new branch libraries is mostly about adding value to neighborhoods, not about getting more books to more people.
Now, while I think this editorial overstates things a bit, there is something to ponder in all this. We are trying to be all things to all people. And….warning, shock alert….we’re not doing a very good job of telling our story, and explaining why we’re doing all the things we’re doing.
Perhaps we need to take a step back and evaluate what we’re doing and why. And we should start exploring collaborative relationships, as the editorial suggests. The writer continues:
For library purists, it’s sad to learn that neighborhood libraries aren’t cherished for the printed word, but for the computers, meeting space and game events.
Given this new reality, Hillsborough’s library system needs a new strategy. If we want to make libraries de facto community centers, how they are financed should be reconsidered.
It’s time to look at the library system with fresh eyes, and for leaders to tell squeaky-wheel advocates that they can’t have it all.
Ah. There’s the punchline. If there is one group thinking this way, there are others. And our libraries are going to start having to answer tough questions about what they’re doing and why. If what you’re doing makes sense, and is congruent with the mission of the library in serving its community, then make sure you polish your story.
If, however, you’re offering services only because you read an article somewhere and didn’t fully consider whether it’s appropriate for your library and your community, you may want to reconsider.