Azimuth Check

Or, How Reading About Community Got Me Ruminating Over Collection Development

Ironically, after writing my last few posts about how individuals, people, and communities must remain at the center of every thing we do as librarians, I read through Lankes’ entire Community Thread thinking about books. It may have been that I had just finished reading the on-line Time article, and the resulting comment threads, “Is a Bookless Library Still a Library” by Tim Newcomb (link below). Or it could have been my recent visit to Norfolk Public Library System’s Larchmont branch, where members were coming and going with armfuls of books. Or maybe it was that I have just unpacked boxes of my own treasured books as part of settling into our new life in Virginia. Whatever the reason, I have been ruminating on the relationship between people and artifacts in the library.

If I’m so hung up on libraries being about people and not books or buildings, do I think we should get rid of books and buildings? Absolutely not. I think librarians should apply careful consideration to what their communities need in order to provide the most appropriate resources for their members. While I am adamant that the focus of librarians should be on their members and not their collections, our collections (and the way in which they are accessed) deserve our consideration so that we best meet the needs of our members. Collections that are crafted with the community in mind, and presented in a format appropriate to the community, provide the tools that members need to frame their knowledge creation conversations.

Our communities each need something unique from their librarians, so each library must be unique in order to provide librarians the specific tools and resources they need. In fact, individual members need different resources and services at different times from our librarians. In the course of a few weeks last fall, I needed my librarian’s help for a number of varied and (to me) important reasons. I needed to study for my GRE; to set up library field trips for my preschool class; to find a copy of the book for our upcoming book club; and to weed through resources to find a really good networking site on which I could share lesson plans. While my librarian was invaluable in connecting to and utilizing the resources our small community library had access to, it was important that those resources were available at all, regardless of whether they were available in physical or digital format. Linda the Librarian was able to help me ascertain which GRE study guides and practice tests were best suited to my learning style; to involve me in planning a story time field trip that reinforced my classroom curriculum and learning objectives; to help me track down the eBook I needed for book club and reader’s advisory material (which was important as it was my turn as host); and to help me weed through my options and find a preschool teachers’ social networking site on which I could share ideas and lesson plans. During that time, I also checked out a number of books for pleasure, some of which came from other libraries in the system–and all but one of which I enjoyed reading.

On any journey, it is beneficial to do occasional azimuth checks, in which you pause your journey, pull out your compass and map, and see if you are still heading in the direction you thought you were. It is something that librarians should do regularly with their members in order to in order to affect meaningful collection development.

Lankes, R. D. (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.


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