Dutch sailors ate so many dodos that the dodos became extinct. Will librarians also become extinct? Extinct, not by Dutch sailors, but by Google? It is true that some librarians should vanish. They are the ones who sit behind an imposing desk, serving as gatekeepers to the library, forcing everyone to adhere to strict rules of conduct. On the other side of the spectrum are the passive librarians, timid and unable to engage with patrons. Both types make libraries irrelevant and as dead as dodos.
In a way, Google has created an opportunity for librarians. If people can answer their own questions in seconds on their phones or computers, librarians aren’t threatened. Being educated and informed is good. If our patrons can’t find the information they need, the Kent Memorial librarians are qualified and glad to help. However, librarians need to get out from behind the reference desk and ask questions themselves. What are the problems and needs of our community? How can we explore the issues with you? The Suffield Police and Youth Services departments are providing community conversations about local issues. How can the library help? Are there other pertinent issues for which the library can provide a forum?
In the past, librarians simply stocked libraries with books we thought you would want to read and figured our job was done. We seldom bought books requested by patrons. The same was true with programs; that is, if programs were even provided. Customer service? What was that? We were so insulated in our library building that it wasn’t surprising when some libraries became extinct.
But times have changed. Libraries seek to serve their communities better. Here are some services which today’s libraries provide:
• A delivery and pick-up book service to students in their schools
• Fix-it workshops where patrons learn how to repair items from repair experts
• A Human Library where humans, not books, are lent out to facilitate conversations among people.
• Virtual reality stations, film studios, and a maker-space bus which travels to neighborhoods
One idea I hope to make a reality, is for the Kent Memorial Library to serve as a Welcome Wagon, to introduce new residents to our community.
This month, the library is welcoming new staff, replacing those we lost in the past year. Together, the new and old staff will be reaching out to our community for new ideas on how to serve.