I attended the Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources presentation by Cathy DeRosa today. My colleague, Mary Beth, did an excellent job of summarizing Cathy’s remarks. I won’t rehash them – go on over to Newlyminted Librarian if you wish (the link will open a new window. Read NML and come right on back).
I’ll add a few more thoughts – MB captured Cathy’s opening questions. One of them was, if you had $$$ what would you spend it on, content or service? Interestingly, many librarians would put $$$ in content, but it appears that information consumers would prefer to have service. A library director just the other day told me proudly how her library had recently (when faced with a budget cut), cut library hours and staff, but increased the materials budget. This flies in the face of the study.
I suspect that this response may be skewed by the focus or mission of the library in question. A popular, browsing collection probably would better benefit from best sellers bought in multiple quantities. However, decreasing hours and staff would hamper service to customers who are coming to the library for help in finding information.
Customer service is the value-added aspect of libraries that gives us our niche market. No one else does that for the citizens of our community. When someone wants to find XXX and even Google can’t help, who ya gonna call? Not ghostbusters – but your library! Customer service is what makes libraries the education utility of the culture.
But we’re still faced with what all those people surveyed in the OCLC report think of libraries. My gut tells me that the report is pretty much on target with what most people think of libraries, and their perception is reality. Cathy quoted words like “sacred” and “the library of my childhood”, and we all cringed. Houses of worship are not too full (except on high holy days) and childhood lives only in memory. This does not bode well for support that will equip an alive, essential library.
How to change perception? Tonight I reach to grasp the perception defined in the report. Maybe after understanding how libraries are viewed, we can begin to edit the photo.