Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Detroit - Library as Third Place a winner!

Once again, the presentation of the scan trends changed a meeting. The TLN meeting (held in Novi, just outside of Detroit) was attended by around 70 public library directors, and library trustees, as well about 30 TLN staff and Board members, and the speakers. The order of the day was my presentation (preceded by a short welcome from Christie Brandau, the State Librarian) and a presentation by Kurt Metzger, a demographer from the Centre for Urban Studies at Wayne State University. After lunch, the group was to divide into discussion groups and wrestle with issues related to TLN's role for members of its cooperative.

With the trustees in mind, I tried to avoid industry jargon and acronyms in the presentation but didn't succeed. A trustee told me at lunch she'd really liked the presentation but had to write down all the terms she didn't know to check with her library director later. For the life of me, I couldn't think of what words I used that would be mysterious and unfortunately I didn't see her list. One of the TLN Board members said, "forgive me, but what does OCLC do?" And I realized I'd made a basic mistake: I had not told the group about OCLC. Sales presentation training 101: Me, my company. Tell them about you, tell them about your company. Oh well, at least no one in that group can complain about OCLC taking a bully pulpit.

So, after lunch Michael Deller, the TLN Director announced that a new discussion topic had been added at the request of attendees: the library as third place. Those of us making presentations on the scan (mostly Cathy De Rosa, George and me) have found this idea really resonating with librarians--not just public librarians. I had talked in the morning about the power of this phrase and idea, and suggested libraries could build marketing and advocacy programs around it. Not the least of its power is its brevity--something politicians would like!

I joined the discussion table for the third place--lots of discussion, lots of ideas, many related to advocacy that TLN could undertake on behalf of its members. And an interesting digression on the same topic that "Sam" told George at CLA: the need to expand the kind of people hired to work in libraries. One young library director said she'd love to be able to hire a social worker who could then handle and help the many people using public libraries who really need a social worker, not a librarian. Cool idea, I thought! What better place to help people navigate the thickets of social services than a welcoming, neutral information-rich environment?

Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC VP of Research and Chief Strategist, and also Cathy's and my co-author of the scan, gets the credit for including "the third place" in the chapter on Research and Learning. No wonder he's the Chief Strategist.



2 comments:

ruhan said...

I wish your successes ' continuation


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