Tag Archives: community

Free speech and libraries

26 Oct

Normally I don’t get inspiration this way, but here goes!

A very interesting discussion recently took place on Facebook that I was able to be a part of, centering around the issue of discrimination and restricting membership to groups based on certain criteria.  After seeing where it went, the issue of free speech came up, and being a librarian, I introduced the notion of the “chilling effect” and watched the discussion get a bit ridiculous as those who weren’t familiar with it applied it incorrectly.  If you, an information professional, are not familiar with this concept….get familiar.  Now.  Find out what it is in general, and how it applies to libraries.  Theresa Chmara’s book, Privacy and confidentiality issues in libraries, is a phenomenal place to start.

For those of us that are familiar with it, what’s your stance?  Personally, I tend against anything that chills free speech, and would deny parents certain things they feel a right to getting (their child’s circulation records, for example) because the law makes no distinction on those who have a right to consume information based on age, with the notable exception of pornography being information minors may not receive.  That, of course, is when I would disallow free speech.

How do your libraries handle the issue of free speech and the chilling effect?  Are there any policies in place about it?  What are your feelings about it, and how do you think it affects your career?


Library Mascots

10 Oct

A short blog today, on the value of library mascots.  I know it sounds silly, or hokey, but one of the things I did during my first week at my current job was find a library mascot.  It doesn’t have to be something real.  Mine is this:

This cat, whom I have named Malcolm, gets many comments.  Children of students who come through always ask where the real cat is, students laugh after a hard day, and I get something that makes me smile.  It’s a win all around.  Plus, on cranky days, Malcolm totally understands.  Look at that face!  He gets it.

So what are your library mascots?  Are they real, toys, a picture?  How do your patrons respond?

Netflix shenanaigans: what libraries can learn

19 Sep

So.  Like most people, you’ve heard of Netflix.  I’m going to venture into uncertain territory, and say you knew about them raising their prices and changing their services.

The customer outcry was horrendous, and earlier this week on Sunday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had an apology for everyone.  The part I’m interested in is as follows:

In hindsight, I slid into arrogance based upon past success. We have done very well for a long time by steadily improving our service, without doing much CEO communication. Inside Netflix I say, “Actions speak louder than words,” and we should just keep improving our service.


I’m hoping I wasn’t the only one to see the similarity to libraries.  There is a lesson in there, that we’re learning slowly, and maybe getting at least a little bit right.

Librarians work hard to improve service, but aside from putting up some flyers, how much do we communicate those changes?  We want to believe that our changes matter to our patrons, matter for librarianship.  But do we overlook effective, user-centered communication in favor of change or action?

I think sometimes we do.  I know it’s happened where I work: we put together great programming, got caught up in taking action elsewhere, and expected that if we built it, they would come.  Guess what?  They didn’t come.  We should have been more outspoken about changes in scheduling, programming and subscriptions, because once people knew about the changes we’d made they were enthusiastic.

Is there anything you can think of that we could learn from this?

Crossing community divides

16 Aug

The library or archives is, as you all know, very underrated in terms of divide-crossing. Perhaps not so much the public library, but all other forms of libraries are overlooked and undervalued in terms of the way they contribute to their parent organization.

The really neat thing about libraries (I’ll go with academic, since I work in a college library) is that everyone at least goes through it. It can serve as a unique type of hub for community that has nothing to do with the programming it offers or the materials it has in the stacks. A library can reach out through community service, meeting community needs while adhering to a mission statement.

Most mission statements include something about the community and bringing together people and resources. Community service can absolutely meet this goal, and the onus isn’t necessarily on the library. Various departments, or the school as a whole, can use the library to reach out to local charities and provide either space (in the library) or volunteers (culled from staff and patrons) for events those charities organize.

At the end of the day, you’ve paired people with resources. Isn’t that what it’s all about? And aren’t libraries embracing ever-more non-traditional resources to incorporate into their collections? Aren’t we trying to create community spaces within our buildings, and why can’t that be donated or shared?

Some food for thought, and something I’ll probably revisit, as my library is currently working on behalf of our school, along with representatives from other departments, to implement a program just as I’ve described above.