Library Ideas

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I can’t figure out how to properly embed a Storify in a blog post, so just go here and read a lot of tweets if you want to do so https://storify.com/JustinLibrarian/a-discussion-about-an-idea-called-library-plus

I think ideas and conversation are awesome. When you have conversations that stem from ideas it is even better. I constantly have ideas about libraries and one of my goals for 2016 has been to only have ideas related. I have learned this year that the only library ideas that we have that are worth anything to us are the ones that we can apply in our own situations. Every other library idea out there can be an inspiration, but given that every community is different most ideas don’t adapt easily. So….I think a lot about the Benson Memorial Library, Titusville PA, Crawford County PA, and all of Northwestern PA and say to myself “how can I do just a little bit to make this place just a touch more wonderful.” In the great grand scheme of things I am not gonna to be the leader of any great seismic shifts but instead have come to love my place in the world as a person who sometimes drops pebbles into a massive ocean.

This idea came out of thinking about the following things about Benson Memorial Library:

  1. How can we better use our downstairs space?
  2. How can we offer interesting, cutting edge, and unique services in times of flat or decreasing funding?
  3. The library card is boring and out of date….we can fix this but how do we do that? (here are two good examples of fixing that by the way #1 and #2)

Additional thoughts to the questions I posted above:

  1. We have an amazing downstairs space at the library which is so very underutilized. Part of it sits empty all the time, part of it is used 1-2 times week, and part of it is used to store a lot of stuff that we don’t need. I want to transform this space into something that people can use.
  2. It is difficult for small rural libraries to innovate and bring new and exciting things to their community in the same way that larger urban libraries do. Our funding remains flat or in some cases decreased. I don’t believe that small rural libraries should have to wait for these things to eventually come to them but instead should be included as these new things become available. Too often do small rural libraries wait around for the innovation to come to them that by the time it does it is old and out of date.
  3. I wonder about the future of the library card and how we can make it more exciting. Everyone has so many cards that they don’t want to deal with. As a youth services librarian, I saw that kids and teens often misplaced their cards all the time. We need to give the library card some additional value.

This thinking led me to an idea I will call Library PLUS. It is just an idea and here it is: what if there was an option to upgrade your library membership and support new initiatives at the same time? Everything that came with a library membership right now (unlimited books, 4 dvds/video games/10 magazines/2-3 eBooks/free computer access) would remain the same. None of that would be touched. By paying some kind of a fee (more on that later part #1), the PLUS membership would give you access to non-tax funded things, events, and stuff in the library (more on that later part #2). The funds that the library collected from PLUS memberships would then be funneled back into the program to be able to buy more technology/offer more services or events/hire someone to oversee the PLUS program/etc.

This idea answers my three questions above:

  1. Gives the downstairs space a purpose as it becomes the PLUS area where the tools/events/etc are stored.
  2. Creates a revenue stream which allows the library to purchase new technology and items which allow innovation to happen with greater ease.
  3. Adds a new value to a library card.

So of course with any kind of thought there is the Jedi side and the Sith side:

  1. This idea creates a barrier which allows only those that can afford the PLUS membership access to certain materials/technology/events.
  2. Who will be the target audience?
  3. Can the library obtain a way to offer free PLUS memberships to the community (thinking about kids and teens here)…and if so why not just take that money and invest it in something that everyone can use?

more on that later part #1
-I have no idea how much the fee would be. That would be something that would need to be worked out once the idea was further in place. However, the person implementing this idea would need to recognize that the PLUS membership would need to be as low as it could possibly be.

(more on that later part #2)
-The PLUS membership could not have any materials/technology/events in it that were funded by tax dollars. That to me would “cross the streams” of being a free and open public library to a membership based library. The PLUS membership would only include things that were funded by private donors/foundations/etc.

And that’s it. That’s an idea. That idea spurred some great conversation on Twitter and for me personally it helped me think through this idea. The idea now sits here and it may happen or it may just sit here. But no matter what happens, the ideas and the conversations were worth it. That’s the neat thing about ideas and conversations….they always have value. I hope that we all can continue to have great ideas and conversations in 2017 and beyond!

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