Libraries, not just in our little town, are faced with finding ways to remain relevant, to align with current needs and expectations, to innovate services and programs, to remain integral to the community.
A local library is an important resource to hold a meeting, available when you want a movie, need a computer, desire a book. A welcome, neighborhood place to feel like a part of the community, to feel like you belong.
I found the following, in an article written by Miguel Figueroa for AmericanLibrariesMagazine.org, by typing “what libraries are doing to survive” in the Google search window:
A New Adults Advisory Board at the Kingston Frontenac (Ontario) Public Library brings together patrons ages 18–30 to offer insights for better serving this category of library user. Students at Furman University Library in Greenville, South Carolina, were invited to unplug and recharge during finals week in a quiet “Zen zone” with meditation pillows and coloring books. The new Brooke Point High School Library in Stafford, Virginia, recently introduced a makerspace, but it’s the comfortable and flexible seating that has transformed the library into a vibrant place for work, study, hanging out, and relaxing.
It does take time, will, and resources, to implement change. The American Library Alliance (ALA) has a page on their website for library professionals, an available aid to work smarter, not harder. (www.ala.org/transforminglibraries/future) Ruth Frasure, director of Historic Hagerstown-Jefferson Township (Ind.) Library said this about the service:
As a library director, one of my jobs is to think the big thoughts and make long-term plans for my institution. At the same time, working in a small rural library, I often find myself weighed down by day-to-day operations. The center’s trends have helped me get back into the mindset of “big thinking,” have a controlled vocabulary when speaking to and working with groups and individuals outside the library, and have reference resources at my fingertips. In our institution, this focus on trends has produced a mindset that envisions the library’s mission in a broader context and establishes our place in the community conversation as a leader of innovation and progress. (Underlines are mine).
Town Council and the administration would like to lead, innovate, advance economic development with more business, more residents, more tax base. An important element businesses and residents look for in a location is what does the prospective community have to offer, what quality of life, benefits, and services are available? Easy access to amenities in Cottonwood? The library at Yavapai College or in Jerome?
Subtle and significant changes have unplugged our asset. A retired librarian. Dismissed part-time help. Disbanded Advisory Board. Discontinued annual book sale. Defunct ice cream social fundraiser. Nonexistent volunteer organization.
The skinny economy is a tired excuse. Downsizing personnel and upsizing the work load is a common management reaction, placing increased obligations on the remaining staff. Patrons’ services and programs suffer. Apathy and inertia take hold. It’s easier to throw in the towel than to think differently. This is misaligned with the stated Vision, Mission, and Guiding Principles for the Town of Clarkdale. “A Place That Makes Sense; Provide visionary, innovative, sensible governance; responsible and resourceful delivery of services; a sustainable quality of life in an engaged community of citizens and enterprises.” (www.clarkdale.az.gov/vision_mission_guiding_princ.htm),
On February 4, Mayor Von Gausig wrote a letter to the Verde Independent and said:
Clarkdale produces a few of the key events in our Town, like the Old Fashioned Fourth of July, the Halloween in Old Town Clarkdale, Concerts in the Park, Caroling, etc., but the Block Parties, Clarktoberfest, Made in Clarkdale and the Verde Valley Wine Festival are not Town of Clarkdale-produced events, but are managed entirely by local businesses and Made in Clarkdale (which is a non-profit).
I see possibilities in his commentary. Perhaps these businesses and organizations can continue to be the ones presenting events and social gatherings. Maybe the Business Alliance would take on the tried and true Fourth of July, Halloween, and Concerts in the Park endeavors. Possibly the Director of Community Services can be a director, overseeing a broad spectrum of public benefits, including a vibrant library, and supervising personnel, hired and voluntary, to a pull it off, leading talent to do their talent.
Un-ringing a bell is as likely as re-opening a closed library. Once shuttered, there will never be enough money to unlock the doors.