By Xequina Maria Berber, Reference Librarian, ACLL Hayward Branch.
The following are comments on the “Your Library Community Loves You” presentation by Sarah Houghton, Director of the San Rafael Public Library and author of The Librarian in Black Blog. Houghton appeared at the January 29th, 2015 joint meeting of two Bay Area regional library groups – BayNet and the Special Libraries Association – San Francisco Bay Chapter.
Houghton spoke to a full house of BayNet and SLA participants about the popular trend of urging the community to love their libraries. She believes this is the wrong approach. She stated, “It makes us sound dysfunctional, needy and pathetic. It’s defensive and rooted in fear.” She believes this trend came from the fear of libraries becoming redundant and unnecessary in the age of Google. “But we’re still here, we’re still needed.” Houghton said, “Bullying and guilting is the wrong way to market our services.”
Houghton believes the focus should be on how libraries and librarians love and appreciate their communities. Directors should find ways their staff can show appreciation. For example, rather than “I love Libraries” week, it should be “The Library Loves You” week. Houghton has instituted just such a program at her own library in San Rafael. Each day of that week, library staff actively tell patrons about the service being offered that day, such as, a day for free replacement library cards, a$1 fine forgiveness against their fines or giving away book bags made of recycled materials.
Houghton says, “Libraries must think like a business. Communicate our responsiveness to the community. Let patrons know we heard their suggestions and acted on them. Also, focus on individual contributions and recognize the people who contribute. Language should change too; instead of free, say ‘this is a gift from the library to you.’”