Oh, the many uses of a library!

TRANSOC pinball tournament
TRANSOC pinball tournament
David Lee King, one of the well established voices of “Library 2.0”, recently blogged Can a Library Be Your Office?, which looks at how libraries can lure business people and freelancers out of bookstores and coffee shops and into the library to work. This is all in response to Chris Brogan’s post about why bookstores are his office. His points are:

  • Libraries have books, which are full of ideas.
  • Libraries have fresh food and lots of people anxious to serve me the food.
  • Libraries have big parking lots and lots of room to hold brief, cafe-shaped meetings with a few people.
  • Libraries are usually staffed with pleasant people who don’t do what I do, so they’re willing to chat for a few minutes, but won’t bury me in the details.
  • Libraries are actually fun.

DLK then calls for us, the library world, to remove our anachronistic rules about cellphone usage, food, and noise. Do I get a cookie if we’ve already done that?

I’ll admit, I’m not DLK’s target audience. I’m making the assumption that he’s talking to public libraries, which MPOW is not. Instead we are the library and designated “living room” for a research institute. People routinely have study groups here. We have cookie receptions every Friday afternoon in the reading room. On any given day, there will probably be a group of researchers talking, perhaps on the phone, eating, and just being social. Did we do anything special to cater to them? Not really, other than offering some free candy.

Should we try to become the office of any possible patron? Of course as a special academic library that’s not entirely realistic. Instead, I don’t just want MPOW to be an office for our researchers and grad students. I want it to be a place they feel comfortable, whether that means participating in a ping pong tournament or sitting back and reading the latest issue of Transportation Research Part A.

I get what DLK is trying to get people to do from this post, but I think he doesn’t stress that each library needs to evaluate how it can best meet the changing needs of their patrons. What’s good for us won’t work in the library 100 yards away. Different situations call for different answers. Asking questions and looking to other areas is a good start, but people should feel compelled to copy anybody.

3 thoughts on “Oh, the many uses of a library!

  1. Cool that you’re adapting for your customers, which is what I was getting at, if anything. I agree – please no one simply copy! Instead, figure out what’s happening in your user community, and adapt your services and your libraries to best meet their needs. After all, it’s all about them!

  2. “each library needs to evaluate how it can best meet the changing needs of their patrons. What’s good for us won’t work in the library 100 yards away. Different situations call for different answers.”

    Hallelujah. I’ve been trying to say that for years and it needs to be said more often.

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