In June two of our staff members attended The Evolving Space: “Makerspace” seminar at the State Library of Victoria. They were inspired by how the libraries took a community-led approach to the creation of their makerspaces. Our library Manager asked them to hold a breakfast meeting, with muffins, and talk about community-led libraries with everyone. Thus, the community-led libraries discussion, aka Muffin Revolution, was born.
In a community-led library the community’s needs, wants and talents stay at the forefront of programs, events, collections, and policies. Community-led librarianship is about working in partnership WITH our community to provide library services FOR our community rather than TO our community.
The first Muffin revolution breakfasts happened on 5 August and 8 August. The goal for the inaugural meeting was introduce the concept of Community Led libraries and start thinking about how we can be more community led. In this workshop the participants considered three questions.
Question 1 –
Kindle Unlimited is here. Eventually people will be able to get all the books that they ever wanted to read for less than $10 a month. Where does this leave libraries? What are public libraries for, and what sort of services and experiences should we offer other than material to borrow or read?
· Library as a place. Participants said they see that the library is used for anything from a place to simply a place to be, a place to meet, a place to study and a place to engage with others that have similar interests.
· Emphasis of the “Local” in the Local public library. Local libraries are ideally placed to record the history of their area, curate local knowledge and know about the local community resources. We have a chance to truly specialise in what matters to our local community.
· Learning. We support our community’s learning needs for all age groups. It is a place where people can start their learning independently or through the guidance of information professionals. We offer programs and events to support people’s learning journeys. We need to examine ways we can connect people that are interested in learning about similar topics.
· We advocate on behalf of our community to ensure free access to information is maintained.
Question 2 –
How are we currently connecting with our community? What connections do you have as individuals already?
The best way to be community-led is to find and foster partnerships between the library and other community organisations. We had a discussion about who the staff are already connected to. We were pleasantly surprised with the variety of community groups the participants were connected with. We would like to take this step a further and speak with the people that could not attend to the workshop to fully learn which staff members can provide an “in” with certain groups. We would especially like to find staff members that are connected with the business and maker communities.
· Food: Our staff’s interest in food covers a wide range including community gardens, wine and craft beers, artisan bread making.
· Reading and books: Our staff’s interest in food covers a wide range including community gardens, wine and craft beers, artisan bread making.
· Outdoor groups: How can we bring in the “outdoors” into the library? We have staff members who are in travelling enthusiast communities, scouts, and geocaching and bushwalking groups.
· Sports: This was the most common community connection the workshop attendees had. From badminton, netball and footy to yoga, meditation, qi gong, dancing and cycling. Discussion ensued about how we can tap into the sports community, especially the footy fans.
Question 3A –
Based on your experiences talking to community members (on desk, in the street, waiting for coffee), have they given you any ideas for programs or services we could offer?
· Making and Creating: People have been asking us about ways they can create. They want to learn to create music, make films, draw anime and graphic novels and other creative pursuits.
· Connecting: Our community is asking us how they can connect with other people they have their interests. We received inquiries about connecting with book groups, travel enthusiasts, and gamers such as chess and card games.
· Learning: There is interest in learning about technology, local history, investment and finance.
Discussion ensued about how we can partner and connect with people who are experts in these types of programs and services.
Question 3B –
How can we capture these anecdotes and suggestions more effectively?
· A self-service option (online portal, tweet, instagram, a giant whiteboard, post it note board, suggestion box)
· A facilities approach (staff wiki, report back at staff meetings, a joint file for us to put the information in, question of the day)
We also need to capture the contact information of the patrons interested in these ideas so we can let them know that we listened to them.
Where to from here?
We will be building on these ideas in our business and strategic planning processes. What other ideas do you have for building community led library services? Share your thoughts in the comments!