Monday, July 27, 2015

Libraries Without Limits: Exploring Alternative Library Models Part 5

I have quite a lot to reflect on from my visit with David Court and Colleen Crowley of the Desert Foothills Library. Although this assignment is primarily designed to focus on library technology, my real takeaway is this- digital connectivity is no substitute for in-person human connection.

The real area of interest I had for my interview focused on programing and how the staff at DFLA met the needs of their patron population through creative, cost-effectivie programming options. All three of us, myself, David and Colleen, love technology but we cannot dispute this simple fact- digital technologies have advanced so far that library patrons can opt to have a robust library relationship without ever leaving their homes. Through e-lending, digital downloads like magazine and music, movie streaming and database access, patrons can acquire all the information they desire. 

When I worked at the high school, I wrote a library newsletter for staff with this tagline- Ask not what your library can do for you, but what YOU can do IN your library. Programming is what brings the community in the library and creates the opportunity for people to make greater connections with each other, with new ideas and within the library itself.

As I predicted, Teen programming is the biggest challenge for the staff at DFLA. Teens who drive have jobs, activities and a social calendar that leaves little room for library time. I see this trend in my own system. Like a tough reference search, we just keep attacking teen programming from different angles. This year we hosted a LibCon SciFi/Comic book convention for teens. The event was well-attended enough that we plan to expand it next year.

The other area of challenge at DFLA surprised me because I'd never considered it. DFLA is making a targeted effort to create programming that appeals to men. The library profession is traditionally dominated by women, and often programming attendance is as well. It's so obvious you're almost blind to it. 

The programming surprise of the year was a Cold War film series run through a collaboration with the Paradise Valley Community College history department. The series was not only well attended, it prompted a second upcoming series on World War II. 

This type of responsive programming is a huge benefit of being a stand-alone branch where all decisions are site-based. In my own system, programming is planned months in advance and not designed to respond well to trends or hot topics. I have yet to see a sudden add-on event. The flexibility DFLA has to create or retool events in the moment deepens the community connection it has with patrons. 

The goal of any library is to serve its patrons with outstanding resources, support and programming. The Cave Creek community is fortunate to have such a branch in its city limits. All libraries have limits on funding that affect staffing, hours and collection development. To that end, Desert Foothills Library is truly a library without limits because of its commitment to honoring the best of everything a library can do for and with its community. 

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