Friday, June 16, 2006

Long Overdue

This week, the Americans for Libraries Council issued a report called "Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public and Leadership Attitudes about Libraries in the 21st Century." Americans for Libraries Council is now the umbrella organizations that includes Libraries for the Future.

I have to be honest: I approached this report with a lot of trepidation. Reports that break the news that Americans love their libraries always make me a little nervous, because the reports too often stop there.

This one took it to a different level, though, by engaging community decision makers in the discussion. These leaders (the report calls them "community soldiers") are the people without whom it's impossible to get anything done on a civic level., Every community has them: they may not be elected officials, but they serve on various committees, boards, and task forces that support development of both governmental and nonprofit endeavors. The leaders themselves say that libraries have not tapped into this network, and it seems clear that we need to. This is part of the political and civic savvy that should be in every librarian's skill set.

The report indicates that libraries continue to do a poor job marketing, in both senses of that overused word. They both fail to understand what their communities want today, and they fail to tell them what they have to offer.

There's also a lot of probing thought in this report questioning how different we can afford libraries to be today. How can we mobilize a nationwide (or even statewide) campaign in support of libraries if we can't even say with unanimity what is we do?

Someone will earn a PhD in a few years by analyzing the effects that the ALA survey, the OCLC Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, and Long Overdue had on libraries. Were these reports a renaissance or a eulogy?

1 comment:

Lorcan Dempsey said...

Nice to have had a fresh title for a fresh view.

Reminded of Charles Leadbetter's report on public libraries in the UK in 2003 called, er, Overdue.