Evolution not Extinction; Making the Case for Co-Locating Services in Multi-Use Buildings by Ayub Khan


Back in 2011, I wrote a little blip of a thing about how neat it would be to see post offices in libraries. I never got around to trying the idea myself (but hey hey I’m still here in small town Titusville and I need something to do!) but yesterday I was very happy to see that this kind of stuff is actually happening in the world and that these projects are looking great! As I scrolled through Twitter looking for some library inspiration, I came across an article on the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) titled Evolution not Extinction; Making the Case for Co-Locating Services in Multi-Use Buildings by Ayub Khan. THIS ARTICLE, THESE ACTIONS, AND THIS FORWARD THINKING BLEW MY MIND! I highly suggest you check out what Ayub has shared with all of us…it is very inspiring and it is a trend I hope to see catch on more all around the world. Here’s the hook that snagged me and pulled me in:

Public libraries are evolving, not dying out. They are re-inventing themselves as they have done throughout their history in response to socio-economic shifts, demographic pressures, changing customer demands and expectations, and the digital age. Many look and feel a lot different, particularly on the inside. Makeovers reflect the different ways libraries are used nowadays. When I started my career almost three decades ago, around 70% of library space was traditionally occupied by books and borrowing points, with only 30% for other activities. Now it is the other way around. Similar figures apply to the balance between front-of-house and backroom space in libraries.

Searching around (and thanks to some readers and tweeters) I came across some more examples of this libraries plus other services in the same space movement. Enjoy, and be inspired!

Starfield Coex Mall (South Korea) Opens A Massive 50,000 Book Library
Lincolnshire Coop merges libraries, pharmacies, post offices, and food stores
Yarm Library co-locates with Newcastle Building Society
Ashburton library co-location with a post office

More libraries should be trying this out! Are you? If so comment and leave your story. I would love to hear it.


Libraries and the US Postal Service

Chances are that, if you work in a library or have visited a library at some point you’ve found yourself saying “Wow, I really hate my library because of _____ and I think we’re doomed and libraries are totally gonna fail”.  It happens to everyone. I’ve had these moments myself.

Recently I’ve been having them a lot more, but not with libraries…this time, it’s been with the US Postal Service.  Between having absolutely horrible customer service experiences (I had one post office employee tell me I was mad for decorating an envelope), long waits in line (my personal best? 15 minutes in line to get one stamp), and unwillingness to embrace technology and self service (example: the two post offices near my home do not have self service kiosks if you just want stamps), I completely believe that the US Postal Service is doomed to fail.

On other hand, it makes me think about libraries and just how far we’ve come.  Are we in the same situation as the US Post Office?  Nope.  And why is that?  I think that’s because we’ve done a pretty fantastic job caring about the people we serve over the past few years.  We’ve adapted, we’ve learned to smile more, we’ve jumped into the unknown and dammit, we’ve come out of it stronger than ever.

So the next time you find yourself being bummed out about your library, just think of all the awesome changes we’ve made in the past few years and BE PROUD.

Here’s a good article about the US Postal Service: Avoiding Financial Armageddon at the Post Office.  My favorite quote:

Re-invent the post office. Operating and staffing 36,000 physical post offices is hugely expensive. And these post offices are being hollowed out, as volume going through the average post office is down 19% in the past four years alone. USPS needs to steal pages from the UPS and FedEx playbooks. Most physical post offices should be closed and replaced with self-service kiosks, supported by proven technology tools. These kiosks could be located in retailers, who would gladly trade a little space in exchange for foot traffic and possibly a revenue share. Closing post offices would save a fortune in operating and staffing costs, and the proceeds from selling the real estate could fund the benefits shortfall.


Post Offices in the Library?

A few days ago, I called up the Huffington Post app on my iPhone and saw this headline staring at me:

My first thought was “duh, I can totally understand this.”  Anyone who has use the USPS must know what I’m talking about.  I myself find it to be quite a drag to have to make another pit stop when running errands just to stand in line for one or two stamps.  In line, I always think “why can’t I get stamps elsewhere?”  The article focused a lot on retirement and health benefits for employees, but also talked about cutting Saturday mail services and closing locations.  The quote “postal officials want changes in the way they operate” struck me.  What if libraries and post offices joined forces?

Libraries are already adept at holding things for patrons to pick up.  If some kind of partnership was developed, the library could be used as a pick up spot for mail and packages.  In return, perhaps some federal funds could be directed at libraries, helping them grow from book depositories to something more akin to a community center.   And of course, we could easily sell stamps.   I  know I’d like that.

What do you think?  I’m curious to hear your thoughts.  I’m all about partnerships where two organizations come together to help out their communities, and I think that something like this could be wonderful if it was done right.