For the last couple of days, that Time article on the emergence of the sharing culture has really stuck with me. It settles on a single question: are librarians missing opportunities to create other lending or sharing networks in their respective communities?
As material budgets tend to take a hit during budget downturns, an alternative to attempting to reflect every single community interest in the collection could be to encourage patrons to share their own types of collections. In helping community members establish their own sharing groups, it would take collection development pressure off the library to collect materials that invoke stakeholder controversy and/or become hard to justify in relation to the core mission of education, literacy, and information. Video games comes to mind, as much as it will chagrin my 8bit library friends, as well as gardening tools and baking pans. It turns the question of “how do I expand my library’s collection?” to “how many collections exist already in my community that can be utilized?”
I think in helping our communities create their own lending and sharing groups and cooperatives that it provides a different sort of outreach that benefits the library. Rather than take on all of the responsibilities and duties of a full lending collection, the library acts as a consultant and mentor to community members to form their own viable lending/circulating collections. It takes the sharing and lending values of the library and puts them into the hands of the people that we serve. I believe that by instilling those qualities into these kinds of lending entities that the overall mission of the library is furthered as well as creating advocates for the ethics that librarians seek to further.
If we truly believe that the philosophy of the library goes beyond our walls, then it behooves us to work towards additional lending and sharing models in our respective communities. In doing so, we put our principles and practice above our own limitations and create a greater lending and sharing culture. I believe it will work towards furthering our own viability in the future since it sinks the roots of the library deeper and further into the lives of our service areas.
What do you think?
Does this make the library into a hosting facility for the community to come and engage/share with one another rather than being a place for the community to come for specific items?
I’d say it is within the realm and scope of the library to do so. And why not? I think we do it anyway.
I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. I start to wonder then what the definition of a library would be if we went down this road. Are libraries community centers that offer content creation/sharing stations for the people; should there be a difference between community centers and libraries; etc. Again, not that it’s a bad idea. I think libraries need to change what they are and maybe this is the right direction. One potential problem would be that we don’t need all the staff that we currently have, and not losing staff is the one thing that I don’t know that we can do in the next few years.
My reckoning is that our expertise in lending is something that can be taught to others. This is not about having people set up their own mini-libraries of personal books (although it could be), but other sorts of collections that exist already. To take the tool example, there are tons of tools sitting idly in sheds, garages, and basements around the neighborhood. Why not see about organizing a tool lending library? Look at your student populations: do they have things they might consider sharing? Movies? Music? Sports equipment? There are possibilities out there.
Yes, these do bring up their own issues, but I feel the benefits outweigh the potential negatives. What better way to encourage people to support the library when they are setting up their own lending and sharing networks?
Interesting idea, Andy. As we try to better position “lending libraries” for continued success in the 21st c and beyond, maybe we should focus on the lending more than on the library. This reminds me and gives new meaning to one of my favorite half-min scenes from the film Chinatown (http://bit.ly/hnhdEB).
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