IST 511 Thread Four: Community, or Do Houseboat People Need Librarians?
A book I was reading for another class on rare book librarianship emphasized the need for a rare book librarian to get out of the stacks and spend time promoting his or her program to the academic community as well as the wider local community.
Originally, I pictured librarians as door-to-door salesman types:
Librarian:“Sooo, I hear you are a physics professor! Quantum physics is still physics, right? Well, we have a great deal right now, limited time, where you can actually touch a FIRST EDITION of Galileo’s famous work– ON MOTION!”
Professor: DOOR SLAM
Librarian: “Sooo, I see you have two toddlers! Well, we have a great deal right now, limited time, where you can actually read Godey’s Lady’s Book for mid-19th century child-rearing tips!”
Community Member: DOOR SLAM
Later the book talked about exhibits and events that could be held to draw in a local audience, which seemed a better way to reach the public with your rare book collection than going door-to-door with a backpack full of rare books (not to mention better for the books). Even in the material-centric world of rare books, community outreach is more important. What is the point in maintaining a collection without a community to use and enjoy it?
Real World Library Experience
In my interview with librarian Sara Kelly Johns, we spent a great deal of time talking about how librarians need to be involved with the community as a participant and a facilitator.
Sara talked a lot about her work as a school librarian and the ways that a school librarian can serve the community. Librarians look for the issues that are keeping their administrators, teachers and students awake at night and then look for a service they can provide to help. By starting not with “What services can I offer based on my own expectations?” but with “What services does my community need me to offer?”, the librarian can create a program that will be useful and important to the community.
By starting with community needs, staying relevant to the community is easier. As the community changes and adapts to its environment, the librarian adapts his or her library programming to better suit the developing community. When a librarian knows the community well enough, this adaptation becomes less reactive and more intuitive.
Note to Self:
If being a door-to-door librarian is not realistic, maybe I should consider becoming a houseboat librarian. I am sure there are unique needs voiced by the houseboat community that are not being served by landlubber librarians.