A whole new world…. A new fantastic point of view…
This week left me with a lot to think about. I have been mulling over the different discussion questions, trying to decide which way to go, and today it hit me while I was talking to one of my coworkers.
We are asked if libraries risk getting “off message” when focusing on non-traditional services and community collaboration. And honestly, I don’t think so. There is certainly a fine line to be walked, but I think that as long as a library is keeping its users in mind, it is not going off that path. I am going to focus especially on public libraries, as that is where I currently work and plan to continue working, but I imagine parts of this will apply to other library types as well.
Now before I get too far, according to Merriam-Webster online:
mission creep: noun: the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or an organization
Libraries deal with this on a daily basis. With advances in technology and the argued decline of print, libraries have to find a way into the 21st century. We must offer more or risk slipping into obsolescence: thanks to sites like Google and Wikipedia, research is not as hard as it used to be. “If we don’t join in creating the future, we may find that the future does not include us” (Gashurov & Kendrick, 2013). Gone are the days of poring over the card catalog looking for a subject, and gone are the days of needing to be physically in the library to use its resources. Between ebooks and virtual reference, a patron doesn’t have to step foot in the door to get the information they seek. The mission of the library is no longer just about books and research, it is about reaching the patrons, the community, and serving them.
We at the public library are funded by the community. It is our job to remind them why we deserve their money, and what better way than to allow them to contribute? Collaboration allows patrons to feel involved, and to see the library as open to new ideas, not as a static institution, and shows a willingness to change. It has become our job, as librarians, to look at our communities, to KNOW our communities, and to figure out what they need. From there we look at our mission, and decide where that need fits in while also considering our strategic goals. Then we use that to create or change a service so that we can fulfill a need in the community while still adhering to that mission. What is the best way to figure out a need in a community? Ask the members! Collaborate! As Stern (2011) points out, “co-creation works best when you build a strong community.”
So then what, exactly, am I trying to say here? An innovative organization knows how to fulfill a need creatively while staying true to their mission statement. A library can do the same thing. We can analyze our community’s needs according to our mission, and find an inventive new way to address them. For example, one branch in my system has found that they have a lot of patrons who need technology help, and a lot of high school students who are extremely tech-savvy, would attend tech programming, and need community service. So why not combine it all? This has given birth to the wildly successful program, Teen Tech Tutors. Every other Friday for two hours, high school students assist patrons with whatever their tech needs may be. Some patrons bring in their devices and get help using OverDrive, while others come in to use a computer and get help with Facebook settings. This branch has found a way to fill the needs of multiple community groups by offering a new service that allows the teens and the adults to work together to problem solve. I had the privilege of attending the program, and am currently looking into the possibility of starting it at my branch this fall. Not only did this library come up with a way to fill multiple needs within their community, but they did it collaboratively and found an innovative way to succeed.
For further reference, I want to share our mission statement:
Timberland Regional Library invites discovery and interaction
with our vibrant collection, services and programs
for learning, enrichment, and enjoyment
for people of all ages in our diverse communities.
Yes, it is broad, and yes, it suffers from mission creep, but it serves our communities well (our system spans across 5 very, VERY diverse counties). It also allows us the freedom to work within it to find ways to appeal to our individual communities while still representing our organization and maintaing the mission. “We can make ourselves an integral part of the future by working together. Collaboration, as much as competition, is here to stay” (Gashurov & Kendrick, 2013).
Gashurov, I. & Kendrick, C.L. (2013 October 2). Collaboration for hard times. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/10/managing-libraries/collaboration-for-hard-times/
Mission creep. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (11th ed.). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mission%20creep
Mission, vision, & values. (2013). Timberland Regional Library. Retrieved from http://www.trl.org/About/Pages/Mission.aspx
Stefan, S. (2011 February 28). A co-creation primer. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/02/co-creation/