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.

10 C’s of 21st Century Librarianship

10 c's of 21st Century Librarianship

Libraries have never been just about books. At my library, I preach that it’s not the stuff inside the library that makes a difference; it’s the people, the librarians and library professionals.

So, what’s expected of a 21st century librarian? Take a look at my 10 c’s. I hope they serve as a guide for you or your organization just as they have for my library, the Topeka and Shawnee County (KS) Public Library.

1.We know our customers – their needs, wants, habits and interests. (The key to that is often market segmentation.)

2. We become information consultants, not simply information mediators. We’re not generalists anymore – we’re experts!

3. We make convenience a priority delivering services when, where and how people need them.

4. We communicate with each other and our customers in all the ways that work for them.

5. We create original content, not waiting for the questions but showing people what librarians can do for them. We blog, shoot videos, do podcasts.

6. We practice continuous improvement with our spaces, systems and ourselves.

7. We anticipate and manage change with good planning, strategic leadership & we’re actively looking for the next cool thing.

8. We connect with our customers, sharing not just our expertise but our personalities.

9. We stay current by doing environmental scanning, experimenting with new processes and technologies and providing experiences that mimic and draw on what people like best on the web and in physical space.

10. We collaborate – we have partners throughout the community and leverage resources and expertise to get things done.

Using Market Segmentation to Provide Better Public Library Services

The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is leading the pack among libraries nationwide in our adoption of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to map out our market, better communicate with our current customers and connect to potential cardholders. Our research into who is using the library, how they are using it and who isn’t using it was recently published in a widely circulated (in the library world anyway) magazine called Marketing Library Services. For your enjoyment, we’re republishing the story of our success, with permission from the publisher.

After you’re done reading, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page or email your thoughts to Gina at gmillsap@tscpl.org.

Using Market Segmentation to Provide Better Public Library Services | Article from Marketing Library Services (.pdf)

You can use some of the same tools the library does for free. Discover your target market and find potential customers. Click into Business Decision, a powerful research tool for those interested in market segmentation, marketing, business, consumer traits and purchasing habits.