Libraries Are In The Curiosity Business

I was at a conference last month and during a roundtable discussion one of the participants related that his dentist asked him about the future of libraries. The dentist wanted to know if there would be a library at all when his daughter went to college. People wonder if libraries will still be around in 10 or 20 years.

I can’t say I know what the future will be, but I did have an answer to his question. My periodontist’s office burned to the ground in a fire and they were without a home for several months. Finally they were able to set up temporary offices a few miles away. When I went to the new spot it was very different from other dentist offices I had visited. They had a really pleasant waiting room and when I got into the examination room they had massive LCD screens with my information and x-rays all ready to go. They had some really relaxing (non-elevator) music playing. When I sat in the chair I noticed something different there too. They hygienist told me that the chair was softly massaging my back and she could turn it off if it bothered me. It blew me away.

They had changed the experience of going to the dentist from one of annoyance and discomfort (and sometimes even fear) into something pleasant and comfortable. By paying attention to the experience they were able to overcome my  expectations and even surprise and delight me.

My answer to the question about what is the future of libraries was that similar to my new dentist’s office libraries evolve and adapt and improve. The best libraries are the ones that are most aware of and responsive to their community and it’s needs. Those are the libraries are doing amazing things. Libraries will not be the same in 10 or 20 years. If they didn’t change and weren’t responsive they wouldn’t last long.

Dentists are not going to run out of business anytime soon as they are in the mouth business and there are no lack of mouths. They do need to grow, improve, and make use of the latest technology though, to stay competitive. Libraries on the other hand are in the curiosity business. I don’t see human curiosity and desire to learn going away anytime soon. The way people learn is changing, but by paying attention to the experience of users and being responsive to their needs, libraries will be around for a long time.


Puppies In The Library And Social Media

Photo by Stephen Mease

It all started with a tweet. At the start of the month a student made an off-hand comment on Twitter about renting puppies to deal with stress. Last week several of us were chatting at an event about finals coming up and I mentioned the idea of pet therapy for helping with stress. Gloria, one of our awesome circulation assistants is also a dog-sitter/walker,  and she was thrilled with the idea. She knew the perfect fun and relaxed dogs to bring (Thea and Pippin).

We floated the idea by our director Janet and she asked a lot of good questions about things like noise, safety and logistics. She also believes in the value of experimentation and trying new things, so together we devised a plan to have a puppy VIP room that kept people, dogs, and noise contained. We decided we would offer dog-therapy on Monday and Tuesday from 5-8:30 (we had to work around the dogs schedules).

Since it was a fairly last minute idea, I began promoting it with signs Friday and more importantly via social media. The posts on Twitter and Facebook began to get some buzz.

It was mentioned and retweeted a pretty good amount over the weekend. When it came time to host the puppies on Monday we got a few more people than we expected. In fact, we were swamped!

Our original idea of having the puppy VIP room in a good-sized office had to be replaced with a plan B of a large meeting room in the library. Once my office-mate Lindsey skillfully shuffled everyone upstairs, the event went swimmingly. Everyone had a smile on their face, and it was a completely calm and relaxed environment. A news crew even ended up covering the story!

There were plenty more tweets from students either asking about the dogs, posting pictures, talking about how Champlain is the best school ever, or posting our news video. I heard from multiple students either on social media or in person how awesome an event this was and how it actually helped during this stressful week.

This event is a great example of how social media can be leveraged by libraries and organizations. It’s a tool for listening to your community, responding to your users, promoting relevant services that meet their needs, telling stories, and demonstrating value.

How better to demonstrate value than having students tweet things like #bestschoolevermy college > than your college, or proud to be a Champlain alum.


Library Technology Conference Presentation and Roundup

I attended the Library Technology Conference this past week in St. Paul, MN. I’ve heard it’s an answer to Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian being on the coasts and the need for a library tech conference in the Midwest. It did not disappoint. Not only did I get to travel back to the state where I grew up and was able to play golf the weather was so nice, it was also one of the better organized and useful conferences I’ve attended.

I presented on using Mobile Phone Polling to increase student engagement in the classroom. The session was a lot of fun and I always get new ideas from talking to audience members.

In addition to presenting I attended a lot of awesome sessions. Some of my highlight’s of the conference include:

I would recommend this conference to anyone interested in library tech. The keynotes were really inspiring, especially the one from Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium. I will definitely keep this on my radar for future conferences.