By Creed Kidd
Help NFN Grow
We’re going to talk today about a facet of library service you don’t often hear about. Not nearly often enough in the trade journals such as “Library Journal,” “Publisher’s Weekly,” or “American Libraries” and not at all in the popular press which often discusses libraries in terms of big: big grants, big library renovation projects or big fines: “Man Returns Library Book 42 Years Overdue.”
What we mean to talk about, however, is the power of small.
Let me illustrate.
A few years ago, at a mid-sized public library in another state, we made a purchase recommendation. It was easy to post the request through the library’s website.
Then, nothing happened. A month rolled by and then, into a second. Finally, some good news: they would purchase and shelve the item. However, it didn’t sound like good news but begrudged or at best indifferent from the form notice received. No personalization, no thanks for the request, just a colorless purchase notification.
If it happens to me as a librarian, it happens to you. The inference was from the staff of that library that ‘we’re just too big to spend much effort on this’ and, ‘we’ve bigger things to do,” which, in our humble and contrite opinion, is both the breath and kiss of death in public service work.
Thinking small is putting the individual first. That means that as a library user you may be treated courteously, have your concerns and questions answered promptly and accurately and that your comfort and well-being are addressed in titles available, applicable programming, good computer access, seating and study arrangements.
As the smallest divisible denominator in the library service equation, you may expect that public library organization and management are conducive, clear and reasonable individually. Circulation rules should be straightforward and helpful in providing access to resources you share with other members of your community.
You have a right to expect library services to extend beyond 9 to 5 with outside hours programming, internet access, and the ability to download a book or perhaps enjoy a library-sponsored video or live presentation – that’s coming.
There’s a forest and trees issue here. Our take is that if the trees are properly nurtured and allowed to grow, then the forest takes care of itself. Addressing big issues and big problems are well enough and we certainly applaud community thinking. However, if big thinking doesn’t solve individual, small problems then it comes to naught.
We tend to be bottom dwellers, or perhaps more accurately, bottom-thinkers in the context that assisting or solving the small, individual library issues – that is, individually for you – is more durable and sustainable than solutions imposed top-down. That’s the power of small.
The best libraries–of any size or persuasion–practice the power of small.