At this time of year I often try to focus and redirect. I look at what I’ve been doing to see if it works and I ask myself how can I do better. Here’s my quick list of what I’ll like to do in 2013.
Meet Library Users Where They Are. Do we offer programs in the right time and place for busy working families? If not, why not? And what can we do to make it easier to use the library and to attend events? One way could be to turn more structured library programs into passive drop-in programs. During December and the summer months, we have a drop-in craft Friday. Almost everyone that comes into the department on these days participates. Perhaps we should do this more regularly. This year I want to consider why our evening family programs have not always had the numbers we anticipated. Perhaps evening programs may need to be a bit bigger and brighter than our weekly daytime offerings. And maybe the timing is wrong. At the Keene Public Library, we offer a number of big draw Saturday afternoon programs like our annual Family Ladybug Book Award Festival, Star Wars Day, and Family Gingerbread House Workshops. If we had add occasional high impact evening programs to our schedule of events, would we reach a whole new population that has been too busy to make a trip to the library?
Make New Friends. I want to bring new people into the library and to have them return regularly. This evening I noticed families asking for directions in the library. “Where’s the Trustee’s Room?” It dawned on me that if these people are probably new to the library and whatever program was happening in the Trustee’s Room had achieved something I wish all my programs did. It brought new people into the library. This year I want to make sure I’m offering some programs that will bring in new people. Our monthly Lego program does but what other programs can I offer that will bring in people that have to ask for directions? I recognize that I’ve been guilty of taking the easy way out and offering my the programs I like without taking the trouble to find out what my patrons want. Sometimes it is too easy to do last year’s successful program again this year. And then after a decade you realize maybe the program isn’t so hot anymore. I just found some good suggestions on how to make sure my programs are relevant to my current patrons on Bryce Don’t Play. He suggests that we watch a little of the new shows on Nick Jr., PBS, and the Cartoon Network and to pay attention to kids’ shirts.
- Rethink and Prioritize Time. Since I want to being doing more to get and connect with new patrons, I will need to find time somewhere. This means rethinking what I’ve been doing. Do I really need to spend as much time as I do planning and preparing for programs? My friend Wisconsin library friend Marge Loch-Waters gives some great ideas on how to Unprogram Your Programs on her blog Tiny Tips for Library Fun. Joyce Dixon, one of my very early library mentors, once described storytime as a laboratory for librarians to experiment with books and kids. She wanted us to take what we learned from storytime and use it in our outreach work in the community. I try to keep this in mind as I plan by storytimes and events. I really feel that storytimes aren’t the most important thing we do, so we need to make sure it isn’t the most time consuming thing we do. And any conversation about storytime will eventually lead to storytime breaks. I would love to not have storybreaks. I wish I had a library that had enough staff to alternate so that we librarians could enjoy a break without inconveniencing our families but I’ve never seen such a library. I have seen some really good ideas for dealing with storytime breaks. We try to have drop-in craft tables or other less demanding programs at least once a week during our breaks. This year I want to offer Take Home Story Kits, new idea I read about the Show Me Librarian Blog.
- Get STEAMED. You’ve no doubt noticed the push for STEM (Science, Engineering and Math) in libraries and other educational activities but in 2013, the Keene Public Library and other libraries will be incorporating the Arts into Stem. You can get some STEAMING ideas on Amy Koester’s Show Me Librarian blog.
- Get More Tech Savvy. Although I’m fairly capable with technology there is still so much I’m not truly comfortable with. It really is a never ending struggle and one that we can’t afford to fall behind in or we will never catch up. Youth librarians need to step up to the plate and become a leader and not a follower. The recent Pew Internet and Libraries Report on Mobile Connections to Libraries made this crystal clear to me. The report found that parents of minor children were the most likely population to access a library’s website with a mobile device. If we want to have kids in our libraries, these are the people we need to be talking to and we may need to change the way we’ve been talking to them in the past. I know there is much debate in our profession and our communities about whether technological gadgets are beneficial to young kids. Just because we haven’t been asked for advice on the topic doesn’t mean that parents don’t’ need it. Many of our parents are already sharing their phone and tablets with their children. We need to step in and help so that they are using the best media at the appropriate time for their children. Cen Campbell from the Santa Clara Library Systems gives offers a good argument for curating aps for kids on her blog Little eLit.
- Ready More Widely. Most year’s I’m a big reader but this year I taking a systematic approach by joining my friend Angela Frederick’s Readers Advisroy Challenge for 2013. Angela is a YA librarian in Tennessee. The challenge involves reading YA and MG books in a different genre each month. In January the genre is horror. I’m reading Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield.
What do you hope for in 2013? Have you set any goals for yourself and your library?
Gail Zachariah, CHILIS President