Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My Kind of Town...and Library

As mentioned earlier, the IFLA/OCLC Fellows visited the Chicago Public Library for its All Staff Institute Day last week. The Fellows joined the Mortenson Center for International Librarianship's Associates from East and West Africa to do a breakout session presentation called "The World Comes to Chicago."

I had the good fortune to attend a breakout session on "Chicago Public Library 2010 - A Vision for the Future," led by Amy Eshleman, the Assistant Commissioner for Planning (I may have mangled that title beyond recognition, and if so, I apologize). The Chicago Public Library really seems to get it!

The plan is the result of a fairly quick project coordinated by the Boston Consulting Group through a steering committee and a working group, each of which had staff, consultants, board members, and CPL Foundation members. From the outside, this is a process that seemed remarkably free of "analysis paralysis."

The plan lays out a plethora of goals, but the owners of those goals had already been identified by the time the plan was released. Someone is already responsible for nearly all of the ambitious goals that have been laid out. This avoids a lot of "pie in the sky" planning.

This is one of the first public library plans that I've ever seen that recognizes that in our networked world, there are stakeholders beyond the political borders of the community. The second stakeholder of the Chicago Public Library listed is "Global users of the ... Library." How refreshing is that?

The Chicago Public Library is a sterling example of what can happen when intelligent leadership, strong political support (Mayor Daley and Board President Jayne Carr Thompson in particular), and a willing community come together to create future-looking services. In the 15 years since the Harold Washington Library Center opened in the South Loop, CPL has built or renovated 52 branch libraries around the city. Their circulation is solid, their programming is outstanding, and their facilities are busy. This is a library that takes the digital divide very seriously, and works to address this gap in the city.

We can all learn from the City of the Broad Shoulders! As soon as the Library puts the plan on its website, I'll post the URL here.

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