In our research we found that the libraries that are most successful are those libraries that had successfully seeded the idea of librarians and other library workers as critical community partners.
Again and again in the 60 interviews we did with library partners, we found those partners go through a process of transforming their thinking about the people who work in public libraries.
In Stage 1, potential partners see libraries primarily as book repositories, and therefore library workers exist to distribute, preserve, and promote books.
As partners work more with library workers, and begin to learn about the roles of public libraries in communities, they begin to see that the library as a trusted resource (Stage 2), a space that is always there, that people turn to, that is stable, and trusted. But, and this is critical, at this stage partners see the library primarily a a space to use. They do not see all the amazing contributions library workers make to communities.
It takes time, and a lot of work, to get to Stage 3. Here, the focus shifts from the library as a space to the library worker as a critical community partner. In this stage, librarians and their partners work together to figure out what to do in and with communities. There is true back-and-forth going on, and library workers have a seat at the table.
We believe this idea – that the people who work in public libraries are critical community partners – is the idea we always need to be planting. How have you planted this seed in your community?