Nice column! Amen! The story matters indeed. The Library Book by Dave Obee, is a story of service but in many ways an ethnography too. Since the campfire, the story is our humanity. It makes perfect sense that when we moved from oral tradition to written record that someone( librarians) found ways to not just preserve that vast collection if stories, fact or fiction, but provide ways for everyone to access them regardless of background, race or creed. I recall as a little boy having an aunt expose me to books on her shelf and my mother who was willing to be dragged to the small public library downtown so I get the Zane Grey title not in her set! Then again finding the renewed love for libraries I saw in the relationship of my English teacher and school librarian. This bond and sense of service toward books and literacy only made me inspired to seek out the glorious old Main Library at UBC. The story of stories could be found in all these venues. Obee has a wonderful volume.
Category Archives: Public Libraries
Mission Creep? Libraries and 3D Printers? What?
In response to a recent blog post I read by Hugh Rundle .(http://hughrundle.net/2013/01/02/mission-creep-a-3d-printer-will-not-save-your-library/ )
I get the urge to provide modern powerful tools that help our patrons/students to learn. Emphasizing the phase of creation/production to the information inquiry cycle makes sense in 2013. Developing a learning commons in a high school makes sense but like embracing 3D printers, iPads or other high tech innovations the risk is we lose our fundamental core virtues. A new Learning Commons without a trained teacher-librarian is like the open pool without an instructor or life guard.
Hugh Rundle’s thesis of mission creep;the frenzy to embrace technologies as the savior for library programs, may be a valid concern. Public, academic or school libraries all have unique missions and contexts as they strive to adapt and improve in this information age, but they all have a common obstacle- leadership that fails to discover and focus the decisions that hold sustainable purpose. The recent BC Libraries Summit ( http://commons.bclibraries.ca/inspiringlibraries2012/ )explored these issues.
Embracing technologies for its own trendy value is indeed a distraction, if not a major barrier. Rundle calls it ‘technolust’! Although my emphasis is a high school library, we do tend to model, lead and/or persuade our community with technology innovation. It has been a natural evolution of digital information realities; however, one truth is users/patrons have always come to the library as a reliable station for content, resources and advice whether it be a rare book, thesis support or 16mm film. The computing reality has been a natural progression of this service and is part of our culture. Our ‘technolust’, although present, is abated because of budgetary realities and policies but education in general suffers the same malady.
Change in libraries and in schools in general has occurred by two means. There is the determined targeted practice of leaders and practitioners who build programs and initiatives on the ground floor and there is just the inevitable absorption from wider social technological change. I believe strong library programs must seek out option one. A team of leaders who can collaborate and assess many views, options, and virtues of technologies that match sound program purpose. An inspiring colleague of mine, Nicola at RSS, once encouraged me to embrace change with my site teammates to evaluate our mission. It may sound cliche but it is necessary to avoid the creep Rundle argues against.
Grasping state of the art trends, like 3D printing is rather absurd when we may not be doing the fundamental needs effectively. I saw the one-to-one computing initiative come and go with very little advantage and certainly debatable sustaining education value. There is notable benefits- always is – but the cost/benefit ratio, training practivalities, pedagogical goals, cultural values and sustainability need to all be part of change. I offer colour printing to my students, by request, yet the demand has been far less than I originally anticipated. It’s convenience, no harm no foul, but the investment may not always match your aspirations. 3D printing output can illustrate concepts in very creative and informative ways. It’s mazing stuff but… soon Staples or Costco will do it for our kids- dare I say from their phones?! . ( Engadget ) Watching Neri Oxman of MIT can give you the inspiration and rationale for 3D printing projects (YouTube ) but there are institutions and agents whose function it is to deliver more appropriate than a library. She synthesized iconic designs of mythology, story telling and architecture at the MIT MediaLab to produce ‘Mythologies of the Not Yet’ showcasing the potential of 3D printing from a design perspective. I see the library’s role in her process as nurturing capacity of all three elements. The story. The image. The technology. We should bring the climber to the mountain. Librarians should be the sherpa and assist the inspiration and the means not bring the mountain to the climber.
Re-assessing your mission is required before you thoughtfully decide which tools and practice you need to strengthen your program for the long term.
— KSS Library (@kssreads) March 2, 2012
Geek Out @ your libraryCHICAGO– As Web-enabled tools such as Facebook, texting and smartphone apps become a staple of teen culture, school and public libraries from coast to coast will throw open their physical and virtual doors to teens and showcase technological resources available @ your library during Teen Tech Week™, March 4 – 10, 2012. Teens by the thousands will improve their digital literacy skills as they take advantage of free library social networking and digital media workshops, e-books, databases, online homework help, gaming tournaments and much more.
Modern citizens know a library’s worth
From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail
Amidst recent public outcry against proposed Toronto Public Library cuts, City Councillor Doug Ford said he “wouldn’t have a clue” who Margaret Atwood was if he saw her. He has since backtracked. He also complained that “I’ve got more libraries in my area than I have Tim Hortons.” Actually, Etobicoke has 39 Tim Hortons and 13 library branches. It doesn’t really matter whether Doug or his brother Rob, the Mayor, would recognize a Canadian literary icon. What matters is that we Torontonians love and use our library, at a very reasonable cost.
“…The Toronto Public Library runs on 19 cents per day per citizen.
For this reasonable sum, 32 million items are borrowed each year..”
One of Rob Ford’s election mantras was that he would run Toronto like a business. Now that he’s mayor, the city is “dedicated to delivering customer service excellence.” That’s the new tagline on the city’s press releases. Meanwhile, all City of Toronto departments have been directed to cut 10 per cent from their budgets. Respect the taxpayer, remember? So perhaps we must simply accept library cuts as business restructuring.
What about the 72 per cent of Torontonians who access the library’s 11 million items, making it the busiest urban library system in the world? Or the 55 per cent who said in a July survey that, if their local councillor supported closing library branches, it would affect their municipal vote “a great deal”? Tough cookies. Business is business.
But wait a minute! If this city is to be run like a business (a Ford mantra, not mine), shouldn’t our Mayor and city council prioritize, strategize and allocate money efficiently? Shouldn’t it cut high-cost, underperforming parts of the organization, and preserve or even strengthen the low-cost, high-value portions, seeking value for money? No intelligent business restructuring cuts 10 per cent blindly from all parts of the enterprise.
The Toronto Public Library runs on 19 cents per day per citizen. For this reasonable sum, 32 million items are borrowed each year. For context, the Toronto Police Service costs $1 per citizen per day, five times as much as the library. Waste management costs 37 cents. The Vancouver Public Library costs $80 per citizen per year; the Toronto Public Library comes in at $68. If I were running this city as a business, I would say the library looks like it is delivering excellent value.
Where would the 10-per-cent budget cuts come from, anyhow? Would it be from our library’s settlement and housing seminars for newcomers to Canada? From the library’s workshops on résumés and interviewing skills for those seeking employment? Perhaps some brave councillor would like to explain the axing of Homework Help for Teens, a free evening tutoring program, or the popular Business Seminar Series, which helps new entrepreneurs get off the ground? There’s no good place to cut when an organization is already delivering high-value services at a reasonable price.
“…Of course, with 10 per cent off the library budget, each Torontonian would be $6.80 richer. Every year! What would I do with my savings? I could console myself by going to Tim Hortons. I’d have a large iced cappuccino, a yogurt and two Timbits, please. Oops – $6.80 isn’t enough for that. If someone is going to claim to use their business smarts to run this city better, they’d better not gut my library without even saving me enough for a snack at my favourite coffee shop.”
Meanwhile, there are two priceless features of each of the 18 million annual library visits in this city. First, sharing wisdom through the library and its programs increases the wealth of our community. We learn, innovate and enrich our city by sharing knowledge through books, films, lectures and discussion. Second, the library is completely democratic. It provides access to information, culture and leisure for new immigrants and established Canadians, to children and the elderly, and to all Torontonians whether they’re rich or going through tough times.
Speaking of tough times, in which we’re told that all belts must tighten: Such are the precise times in which those with less disposable income need access to good libraries more than ever. Those who can’t buy books need to access the library’s collections, not to see acquisitions or library hours cut. The destruction of the ancient Library of Alexandria is one of the intellectual tragedies of antiquity.
The public anger in Toronto over proposed library cuts shows that modern citizens also know a library’s worth. The Fords might pay attention to former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, who once said: “If you cut funding to libraries, you cut the lifeblood of our communities.”
Of course, with 10 per cent off the library budget, each Torontonian would be $6.80 richer. Every year! What would I do with my savings? I could console myself by going to Tim Hortons. I’d have a large iced cappuccino, a yogurt and two Timbits, please. Oops – $6.80 isn’t enough for that. If someone is going to claim to use their business smarts to run this city better, they’d better not gut my library without even saving me enough for a snack at my favourite coffee shop.
Vincent Lam is a writer and ER physician. His book Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures won the 2006 Giller Prize. He is participating in the “Why My Library Matters to Me” contest for lunch with one of 11 distinguished Toronto writers, sponsored by the Toronto Public Library Workers Union. (Toronto residents can enter at [ http://ourpubliclibrary.to/contest ]ourpubliclibrary.to/contest.)
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