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Libraries Re-Imagined – Not just books

These days libraries aren’t just repositories for thousands of books, they have adapted with the times.

“Local government was the sector hit hardest by the recession, because they depend heavily on property taxes. Librarians are adapting to what is a new fiscal reality. One of the areas that libraries have been very aggressive in, is the impact of the jobless rate,” said Ron Carlee.

Carlee is the Chief Operating Officer at the International City County Management Association. He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that libraries are offering more digital services than every before.

“People with very low incomes don’t have access to digital technology. The reality is you can’t apply for a job today without going online to do it. Libraries have adapted to help people get online and understand how to fill out a job application and become familiar with other technology, something as simple as email can be a huge improvement for people,” said Carlee.

Small and rural

“Some of these libraries only have enough resources to have one professional librarian on staff. They have to supplement with volunteers. The key to success is to really connect with what is important to their own communities,” said Carlee. “For example in Anne Arundel County in Maryland the city was about to open up a new Target store. All the applications had to be completed online. Fortunately there was a branch library nearby, that library was converted into basically an employment center for the Target. People could come in and learn about the application process.”

Exposure and agility

“These days you have to go out into the community to tell them about the resources that the library offers. You have to be proactive. For example in Dallas, Texas the the high-school drop-out rate is incredibly high. So what the library did was try to combat the problem early, with children’s programs. But first they had to attract people to the program. So the library sent a few 20-somethings over to the Vital Statistics Office in the Court House. This is an office that is predominately used by immigrants looking for paperwork like birth certificates. There are always very long lines. So the 20-somethings go over and talk to the mom’s waiting in line. They tell them about the children’s programs the library offers, gives them a library card and a book,” said Carlee.

Partnerships are a difference maker

“In Iowa the library partnered with the Public Works Department to combat pollution. They were able to raise awareness about recycling because the Public Works Department had first hand knowledge and expertise in the chemical side of recycling and the library knew the people. So together they were able to team up to make a difference,” said Carlee.

Change is hard

“If you aren’t being a nuisance you probably aren’t making a difference,” said Carlee.

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