It’s been a while since my last post and if I’m honest, it’s because I didn’t feel I had anything new to say. And the conversations I’ve heard about libraries have been either the same old rehash of media doomsaying, “What, you work in a library? Aren’t libraries closing? Nobody reads.” (that’s paraphrased from a chat my library’s director had with a cab driver recently) or insider hand wringing, “We need a ______ (maker space, 3D printer, STEM camp, cafe) if we’re going to remain relevant.”
For more on these topics, just scroll through my previous posts. In summary, yes, people read.
A few glimmers of hope: finally, after over a year of trying to gain a following on Tumblr, we’re getting noticed a little more. People like our Facebook and Instagram posts too; if they find their way to us through our website or any of our social media, they’ll hopefully find their way through our doors. We had a record month for new card signups in September, partly because we told patrons we’d challenged five other NH libraries to see who could get the highest percentage gain in new cardholders for the month, and we displayed the trophy we could win behind the service desk.
Over the summer, we had a surge in “Meet Your Match” — our personalized reading recommendations – requests. Even though it rained for 3 of the 4 shows, we had a good run with Live Music on the Lawn and my hope that we could close the street for a concert was realized, once. I started a “YES” log at the service desk so staff could jot down patrons’ positive comments and that is as helpful as (and certainly more uplifting than) the “NO” log, for things people ask for that we don’t have or don’t do. And we’re off to a decent start with our new low stress book club, Books & Brew, where people come together to talk about whatever they’re reading. At a local bar/coffeehouse.
Last year I gave a talk on why reference and adult services in the 21st century is still about connecting people with books and information, and how we can take back our story with facts and faces — taking to social media and also speaking with people, reminding them of who we are and what we do and who we help. It takes repetition and it’s tedious to keep hammering the message home. Some days you probably just don’t feel like defending libraries’ existence. Or correcting misconceptions about reading.
I’ve felt that way for a few months — hence the blog silence. It feels as if all we ever talk about when we talk about libraries is whether we’ll continue or not, whether we’ll fundamentally change or not, whether this whole conversation is stupid or not. But I realized this week that the way forward requires me, and you, and everyone in the library world, to be steady. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing, keep recording what people value, keep talking about why libraries matter, keep on keeping on, one book and one reader at a time.
I don’t always believe I can do it, but I do it.
Even if some days we mostly clear printer jams, put buckets under leaks, or give directions to the bathroom, librarians still make a tangible difference in our communities, not least of which because we lend books. That people read.
What keeps you going at your library?