New Ways to Engage With Your Community



By Randy Riley, State Librarian, Library of Michigan (LM)
From the Library of Michigan
Dispatch Newsletter

With the new year comes the opportunity to look at our personal and professional lives and assess how we are doing. We are surrounded by advice and tips on how to lose weight, get organized or how to become the best “you” possible. Each January presents us with an opportunity to make positive changes, try new things and hit the restart button looking at the future. The new year is a great time to look at what your library is doing and consider how it can be strengthened.

Through programs like the Harwood Institute the LM is committed to helping create more community centered libraries and librarians across the state. Consider these library resolutions focused on helping to make sure that your library remains an essential and irreplaceable community institution.

1. Worry more about the needs of your community and less about trends.

It is important to be aware of current trends impacting libraries, but not every new trend is the best fit for your library or unique community. We should not feel compelled to chase every new trend discussed in library journals and at conferences. Every community will benefit from librarians who take the time to get to know their community and find creative ways to serve patrons.

2. Get out into the community more in 2019.

Surveys are a great tool for gathering feedback, but they do not replace community conversations. Responses to surveys are often limited and questions do not allow patrons to provide broader answers to complicated questions. Combine surveys with an increased level of visibility in the community. Join organizations, serve on committees, host town meetings and talk to people wherever and whenever possible. Librarians embedded in their communities almost always have a better understanding of the needs of their patrons.

3. Make programming a job requirement for all staff.

Community centered libraries offer opportunities for people to learn together. Making one person responsible for this duty will not work.

4. Learn something new.

Learn something new that will help make your library a better place.

5. Claim your seat at the table.

Advocate for your library at every opportunity. Request to be on the agenda of local meetings of the city council, chamber of commerce, etc. and strive to keep the community more aware of who you are and what you do. Make sure that you have something to say and be willing to say it.

6. Send library “believers” out into community.

Librarians already love libraries. Create opportunities to send your supporters into the community to spread the “good word” about libraries. Their positive message often has a greater impact on community members and funders.

All the best in 2019.

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