A Vision for Heartland Visioning in 2012

In November, I began serving as chair of the Heartland Visioning Process for Topeka and Shawnee County. I’ve been working with Heartland Visioning since its beginning in 2008. This new development is a great opportunity to work with my co-chair, Harry Craig, executive director, William Beteta, and the many community leaders who are focused on making Topeka and Shawnee County a prosperous and progressive community.

A lot of important and exciting things have happened since 2008. Like any big project, Heartland Visioning needs consistent review, revision and refocusing. That’s what we’ll be doing in 2012:

  • Looking at our process – determining how we can make it better
  • Reviewing the strategic plan and taking that it back to the community for feedback and approval
  • Building grassroots leadership capacity in our community – to ensure that there is continued energy, expertise and interest focused on important initiatives like downtown revitalization, riverfront development and many other projects that help create an environment that facilitates economic development, education, quality of life and the arts and culture and ensures that our community moves forward because of the strength of our public/private partnerships.

Read more… Heartland Visioning e-newsletter archive

Meeting Nancy Pearl, the 2011 Librarian of the Year

Me and Marie Pyko, adult services manager, hanging out with Nancy Pearl, 2011 Librarian of the YearI met the librarian’s librarian today. Her name is Nancy Pearl, and she is the goddess of what we call readers advisory in library land. I know her books (Book Lust, More Book Lust, Book Lust to Go and of course, Book Crush). Any librarian worth his or her salt is familiar with her philosophy and advice on helping readers find books they will love.

She challenged us with the notion that the phrase we’ve used for decades to describe how librarians serve readers (readers advisory) is perhaps not the right one. We don’t really give advice on what to read. We try to help readers find books that they will enjoy and that facilitates the discovery of something they might not find on their own. Think of a librarian as your own personal reading consultant.

We’re developing relationships with readers, based on knowledge of each other and trust that we don’t judge anyone’s reading tastes or preferences. A “good” book is one the reader likes; a “bad” book is one the reader doesn’t like. It’s that simple.

Nancy Pearl, and some of the Celebrate the Book Reader's Advisory Conference Planning CommitteeNancy’s appearance was for our Celebrate the Book conference at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Celebrate the Book has become a must-attend for librarians throughout Kansas (and even a few neighbors from other states.) Several members of our adult services staff spend months planning this learning opportunity for their colleagues. They are experts in developing fascinating sessions that celebrate books and reading. This year that includes sessions on can’t-put-them-down reads for teens and tweens, vampire fiction and how to transition to the world of eBooks.

Reading is becoming more convenient and our choices on what we read, how we read, when we read and what form our book will take are expanding. Every time someone who doesn’t use libraries suggests that libraries are becoming irrelevant and that interest in reading books is declining, I smile and politely point out that libraries are more popular and busier than they’ve ever been.

Nancy PearlYou’ll never know where you’ll find that next favorite book. And, your choices can be overwhelming, but feel free to talk to our librarians. Not only will they assist you in finding a book you’ll love or a new author that writes like an old favorite, they’ll make you a personalized reading list just for you. Fill out a simple form on our Digital Branch and our reading experts will create a special list of books just for you. As Nancy Pearl says, “People come into the library and head straight to the section where they have found the most pleasure…. It is our job to take them around to the rest.”

Reflections from my Visit to Kansas City to Hear Molly Raphael

I had the opportunity to hear American Library Association president Molly Raphael speak at the Missouri Library Association conference last week. She presented at the main library of the Kansas City Public Library, a beautiful downtown facility that does its community and its director Crosby Kemper and staff very proud.

Molly’s talk was inspirational and grounded in reality. She spoke from the heart about how essential libraries are to learning and life. She encouraged us to read ALA’s Office of Technology Policy’s brief, Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Library (.pdf) by Roger Levien. Levien says that public libraries in particular must operate strategically to survive and thrive in the 2000s. He visualizes each of these dimensions as being a continuum in which we have to decide where our library should position itself. They are:

  • physical to virtual libraries
  • individual to community libraries
  • collection to creation libraries
  • portal to archive libraries

I find Mr. Levien’s metaphor a useful tool in thinking and having strategic conversations about how my library and libraries generally must evolve to meet and even better, anticipate, the wants and needs of library users. I’ll be looking at our strategic plan, The Next Decade, through this lens as we develop our work plan for 2012 and the next few years.

As I look at our mission and vision and the approach we are taking to the deployment of services, collections and programs, I remain convinced that two key issues will guide us over the next decade.

  1. Librarians must become assertive in their approach to assisting people in finding, assessing and using the best information and stories. We won’t wait to be asked. And that means that at any given time, more of our staff members will be working outside the library’s physical facility as consultants and community liaisons.
  2. We won’t do anything as the Lone Ranger anymore. Partnerships and collaboration are the order of the day for two key reasons. One is that some of us are smarter than one of us – it’s that group think, wisdom of crowds phenomenon – it really works. The other is that no one has the resources to do great things by themselves. Our capacity for strategic thinking and action will grow and our libraries and communities will benefit. This will require a dramatic change in how we define our work and how we organize ourselves to get it done.

I love it when someone challenges me to think and guides me to a resource that wasn’t on my radar. Isn’t that the essence of librarianship? My thanks to Molly for her leadership. I think we’re lucky to have her as the ALA president.