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Sunday 30 October 2011

Libraries: essential for learning and life #lianza11 #keynote2

Molly Raphael 2011-2012 ALA President
Libraries: essential for learning, essential for life
(Abstract is in Sunday's programme)

Libraries can and must play a transformative role in people's lives. Tough economy but huge increase in demand/use of libraries.

In 1990s some thought libraries would fade away with rise of the internet. Instead libraries embraced the internet, proved adaptability. Now need to change rapidly and demonstrate we're as essential as any other "essential services" (police, fire departments). We're not "discretionary" or "ancillary" services though we're not effective at making our case.

Need to transform libraries and transform how people think about us.

How do we keep our libraries moving forward?
Look for opportunities. Libraries doing pretty well at this. Not just keeping up with changes in technology but also how we communicate with public - local and broader community via online. Keeping up with demographic changes.

Excited by what she sees in libraries and library websites. Balancing demand for traditional services with demand for e-services.

Physical library vs virtual library. Most libraries are somewhere in the middle, usually towards physical. We make strategic choices re what we invest in. Shift to virtual use but still lots of demand for face-to-face.

Community library vs individual library. How do we bring people together, create spaces to make it possible - community not just individual.

Collection library vs creation library. Tend to be more focused on collection side, but some more creative esp in Netherlands, Denmark, Singapore.

Portal library vs archival library.
Research on what affects public's likelihood to support libraries for more funding:
Library funding support is only marginally related to library visits - many highly believe in libraries even if they don't use them. Perception of librarians is an important predictor of library funding support. Raphael's going to stop introducing herself at community events as "Director" in favour of "Chief Librarian".

In academic libraries, "Value of Academic Libraries".

Used to look at inputs (how many books do we have), then outputs (how many books are borrowed), now starting to look at impact - how do we transform lives? This info is much more difficult to collect...

This is a frightening time for libraries but also opportunity to demonstrate importance of libraries in transforming lives.

Who can be the most effective in telling the library story?
If we tell it, sounds like self-interest. When members of communities tell it, that issue disappears. Power of people from the community telling the story. Raphael advocates, but notices the impact of parent, teacher, business leader, business activist in making the case for the library. Eg a father talking about a summer reading project turning his son into a reader, from struggling to doing well in school. Community in Oakland defending libraries from closures. Reads story from someone who went from being a school dropout, used library resources to self-educate, then went to community college and now has Master of Engineering.

When libraries seen as transformational source, not informational source, they get much stronger support.

"The Spokane Moms" spoke out in support of school libraries. Lost at local level and went to state level. State provided support for school libraries and school librarians.
Need to engage communities and empower them to speak.

Challenge: think about how our communities can speak in powerful ways. How can we direct this towards the people making decisions? Need to think of how we advocate. Not just when budgets get cut. Need to have communities talk about our value all the time (not necessarily about budgets, but about success linked to libraries). Need to move ourselves into the "essential services" category in preparation for tough economic times.

Need more collaboration between researchers and practitioners. Build bridges so research gets used, and need to share in accessible way to communities. Front-line staff essential in advocacy.

"Empowering Voices: Communities Speak out for Libraries" (see Raphael's column) - building tools to engage in communities. For USA but open to anyone. Advocacy University

Q: "Raging Readers" turned around the whole issue at [missed the location] around to keep materials free - best-kept secret was the "Raging Readers" consisted of two people.
A: A small group can have a huge impact. Politicians often interested mostly in getting reelected. Libraries seen as easy target. Libraries who fight back usually regain most of what they lost - but then exhausted. So need people to see what the library of today is like. Had a meeting with Chief Operating Officer in the library space so he saw it during the day and was blown away by its usage.

Q: In a corporate library. Every dollar counts. Have to pay people to fill in surveys because their time is chargeable.
A: Once out of the public realm it's a lot harder to get support - doesn't really have an answer to this.