Media habits are continuously evolving, which is transforming the role of the library media specialist. Because of this, the Public Library Association conference sought to address the current trends surrounding libraries, and in doing so, pointed out opportunities for growth within innovation, technology, and access.
Out With the Old, In With the New
One important idea the conference addressed was developing new visions for what libraries could be. In the session “Part Playground, Part Laboratory: Building New Ideas at Your Library,” the speakers discussed the idea of experimenting with library spaces by using a “concept library” model to allow for innovation and experimentation.
The speakers illustrated this through Colorado’s Arapahoe Libraries. The public library system designated its Castlewood branch as a collaboration space where library employees and community members could try using the space in new, creative ways through development of a concept. While some ideas were successful, such as the installation of “fitness desk” workstations, not all were perfect, but only through experimentation could the best ideas be identified. In this way, the process of developing ideas, collecting data, creating a process, and facilitating change through innovation and experimentation is integral to developing a long-term strategy to keep any library current with trends.
A Hub for New Technologies
The focus now for library media specialists is shifting toward technology and finding new ways to incorporate it in their spaces. The session “We’re All Tech Librarians Now” focused on the need for librarians to learn new technologies and be able to provide support for their patrons who use it. In her presentation, Callan Bignoli, library director at Olin College of Engineering, noted that 90% of American adults use the internet, but only 65% have home broadband – creating a reliance for many on public technology.
This statistic, then, puts pressure on libraries to provide public access to technology, which also requires library media specialists to fully understand the technology, enabling them to answer any questions that patrons may have when using it. Because of this, Bignoli recommended focusing on transferrable skills, learning the framework for how technology functions rather than focusing on specifics about individual brands. This in turn allows for smoother transitions into facilitating technology within a library.
Letting No One Fall Behind
Finally, one of the largest areas of focus for many of the sessions was providing equal access for all individuals, regardless of income levels or demographics. One prominent area where library media specialists are increasing accessibility is through the elimination of late fines, which many are unable to afford, creating a barrier for individuals in accessing library materials and equipment. Because it does not offer sustainable revenue for libraries, many are getting rid of late fines to increase traffic to the library and make it more accessible. However, it should also be noted, that missing-item fees are still in effect to replace any lost or damaged items.
Another way libraries are increasing accessibility is by focusing on the diversity in their communities and developing collections and programs that more inclusively reflect all patrons who may visit the library. This leads library media specialists to focus on taking audits of what their patrons would like to see as well as keeping up on trends within the community. Through increasing focus on accessibility and inclusivity, this fosters the image of the library as a hub for collaboration and acceptance.
Learn more about the sessions at the PLA conference here: PLA 2020 Conference Nashville.
For further resources about technology in libraries, click here.