Monday, 7 April 2008

Spirals and whatnot

Welcome to yet another typical half-formed ramble!

This morning's Team Meeting (a fortnightly event) raised an interesting issue imo: the library is getting more involved in promoting other Council departments' services, as part of a national drive to make local authority officers work together more. We've been getting more involved for the last few years, and there's a new push within the Council for us to do more of it. This is all (in theory) reciprocal, so we should see our "core offer" being promoted by other departments as well, where appropriate.

As we've put more effort (anecdotally) into this sort of work, we've seen book issues declining in public libraries.

Now, I don't agree that book issues are an adequate measure of a library's performance. Much of what a library does is about providing space - physical and mental - for people to explore ideas. Book issues don't cover the guy who's learning about an ancestor using the DNB or the woman who's trying to use Halsbury's statutes to understand her legal predicament. But, basically, it's about the only measure anyone takes any notice of.

So if book issues are spiralling, is there a correlation with the effort we've redirected elsewhere? If we thook that same time we use to cross-promote other services and actually spent it talking to our users, working on our collections and promoting our reference (and other) services, what would happen?

Maybe too much of our time is spent fostering these relationships rather than actually being librarians. Personally, I'm surprised I'm having these thoughts. It seems a bit old-fashioned, I suppose.

Change is hard, and we're in the middle of a big change within the profession. It's represented in every library you visit: the tension between the old and the new; the 1.0 and the 2.0. I've considered myself to be part of the second camp - "let's try new stuff!" - but there's a genuine need for careful consideration, and more of it than we're able to take.

The two worst reasons for change, or for avoiding it, are "We've always done it this way" and "Because we can". Let's not rush headlong into propping up other people's agendas. Let's get our own house in order first.