Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A thoughtful return

Hello, all, and welcome back to the Eclectic Library. The very short reason for four months of silence? A lack of time and a lack of focus....I was too busy to keep up with my own professional reading and just didn't have very much to say.

Suffice it to say, with spring comes refreshed thinking. In particular, this post from Nate Hill over at Catch and Release about a Library Outpost service model stopped me short and lit a fire under me. After you've finished reading my post (;^), go and check out his.

Nate's idea was to create Library Outposts in places where people are already congregating -- near business centers, schools, apartment complexes, etc. These would be streamlined library buildings, with little to no print material but lots of space for computers and events. With this in mind, here’s another idea for you: From those library outposts, as well as traditional branches, librarians can make forays out into even more targeted areas of the community. Send a “Librarian With a Laptop” into coffeeshops and other places with free wifi to raise awareness of library resources among entrepreneurs and self-employed freelancers, researchers and writers. Set up in a corner of the space with a tabletop display promoting the library’s services, the nearest branch or Outpost location, and a few bullet points of what the library offers. The librarian can showcase database offerings and catalog functionality and help answer reference on the fly.

Think of these roving librarians as another tier on your service model, one even more focused on serving patrons as individuals rather than on the building as the primary resource. You might even use such forays as proof-of-concept for your Outposts, by sending the roving librarian in first to stimulate interest in the area you’re thinking of putting an Outpost later.

I'm not the first person to think of this, not by a long shot, but it's such an easily-implementable idea that I'm going to share my version of it with you. Also, it does seem to be an initiative coming more from academic libraries rather than publics, but we can serve so many more of our patrons remotely in this same way.

Next post, the job description for this Librarian With a Laptop, public-library style.

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