Retiring Guy's Digest has a great post today showing a short video about the libraries of the future. Good ideas and thoughts in the video but he points out an important caveat - when the video talks about staff hierarchies and workflow, it doesn't reflect the reality for the vast majority of libraries in our country. As he points out with a simple listing of number of libraries serving populations under 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000, the sizes of public libraries in our state includes the fact that 96% of them serve populations under 50,000.
These libraries with few staff members are doing amazing work and are just as concerned about keeping libraries vital and meaningful for the public now and in the future. I think that one way our colleagues at libraries in smaller communities prosper is through their networking with each other to better serve their public. And strong systems that provide learning opportunities and pathways to better interconnectedness for their members is another.
Spending time at libraries of different sizes is another. One of my best professional growth experiences was doing a staff exchange with a colleague at Milwaukee Public Library while I was serving at a library with a service population of 35,000. My exchange colleague and I were both wowed. Me - by the level of support for marketing; the sheer diversity of the clientele and the depth of diversity in the collections and the kinds of outreach and programs available. She - by the quickness that we could plan and provide programs; the freedom to change course and the intimate "hi- how-are-you-neighbor" feel of our interactions with our users. We both appreciated where the other was at and the the unique problems and opportunities presented at each size library.
There is no one size fits all for public libraries. Every time I visit a library, no matter the size, I come away awed. I always see the same - good service offered each day with eye to the future amid amazing resourcefulness.
Image: 'Display of Russian Stacking Dolls' http://www.flickr.com/photos/49503155381@N01/2475855465