Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What does your library space say?

In a time of library doomsayers, it is good to read an article that highlights the importance of libraries in today’s tech dependent world.  “Saving Our Public Libraries in a Paperless World” was posted on the blog Simplicity 2.0, and it has been making its way around on social media. The article discusses that while more and more information is going digital, people still feel that libraries are an important source of information. 

What really struck me though was the graphic that they reproduced from the Pew Report “How important are these library services to you and your family?”  The service that ranked number two (after books and media) was “Having a quiet, safe place.”  I would add welcoming to that.   

While we would all love to have huge budgets, it does not take major renovations or even a lot of money to be able to make our libraries welcoming and safe places.  There are several small things that we can do to achieve this goal.  While many of these have been said before, they bear repeating.
  • Excellent customer service: This goes to make the library welcoming.  Liberate yourself from the stereotype of a shushing librarian and smile! Don't be afraid to go above and beyond. Offer that little bit of extra help and view it from the library users perspective instead of forcing them to use the library like we think it should be used.
  • Signage: Does all you signage say no, don't do this?  Get rid of all the signs you can, and reword what you have as positive.  Michaels Stephens has spoken about this quite a bit on his blog Taming the Web
  • Enforce your Code of Conduct: This one may seem a bit basic, but if people are being loud and obnoxious, address it!  It can be intimidating for other customers, and they do not feel safe.
  • Merchandising: Encourage people to browse and linger.  You can do this with face-out displays on shelving. These are some of my attempts. 

  • Create seating areas:  I would live to have space between our shelves to place chairs for greater browsing.  Since we do not, we create seating areas on the floor.  Take a look at your local Barnes and Noble sometimes, and try to find an empty seat.  It can be a challenge.
  • Try to have quiet and loud areas: We are fortunate to have space for this.  We have a large lobby area with tables and chairs in which our customers can be a bit louder.  We also have a designated quiet room in the back of the library for study and reading. You may have to be a bit more creative to create the two distinct spaces.
This list is by no means exhaustive.  What do you do to create and welcoming, safe place? I would love to hear your ideas! 


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