I posted the image you see above on Twitter yesterday and explained the background behind it, so if you want to understand that you can click right here and see my original tweet. I’m not diving into that here because this piece isn’t about that library and their decision to have this specific system to access their wifi. They can do what they need to do to maintain the day to day happenings of their library. All libraries are unique and every single one has their reasons for what they do. Heck, I bet there are things that we do at my library that everyone would question. These library things happen and will continue to happen.
What I want to use this platform for today is to talk about the idea of simplifying our libraries. When I say simplifying our libraries I am thinking about the little things we do every day that we should look at in more detail. There are many little things that public libraries do every day that we should take a step back from, look at with a fresh set of eyes, and ask “is this the way we should be doing this?” and “how can we simplify this process to make it easier for our library guests?”.
Off of the top of my head, here is a list of little things that I think public libraries should reexamine:
- How do patrons sign up or renew a library card?
- What is the process for checking out materials?
- How does a patron sign onto the public computers?
- How does a patron access the wifi network?
- How many signs do you have hanging around the library?
- How many fonts are you using in those signs?
- How many words are on those signs?
- How do patrons reserve library space/study rooms?
- How do patrons login to your online OPAC?
- What policies does your library have in place?
- Are your policies written in an easy to read way?’
- Is your website organized?
- Are your services listed in a way that are easy to see by patrons?
- How does your employee schedule look?
- Is there a clear and easy process for staff members to request time off?
- Are you making sure that you represent all races and genders in your signs, promotional materials, collections, etc?
- Are you collections presented in a way that make sense?
For my library one of the things that I so very greatly need to improve is the way we communicate how people who live in and around our community can get a library card. Our small city is on the border of two other Pennsylvania counties and various municipalities and this complicates the entire process so very much. The entire thing needs a complete overhaul. In order to do so, there are a lot of conversations that need to happen and a lot of things need to fall into place. They will over time. But for now I ask myself this: how can I better communicate how a person in my community can get a library card? It is something I need to revisit again soon. You can look at our current FAQ here and understand why my friend Slaven called the document wackadoo. I understand.
To those reading and sharing this post, I ask you to take a moment in the next few weeks to look at the little things in your library with a fresh set of eyes and think about how you can change them to help those that use your library. If we all do this we can improve so many things and in turn make our libraries even more friendly to everyone in our communities. When we have friendlier libraries we can better reach out to community members. I think kindness and approach mean a lot and that the more we do things in public libraries with kindness that the better off we are in the long run. Our community members will respond to kindness more than anything else that we attempt.
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