Organizational loyalty and personalization are huge goals when trying to gain audience support. How can you see those concepts playing out in a library setting?
At 2318 square feet, the library where I work is the smallest branch in our system of 36 libraries. It sits in the middle of a park, and is seen by many in the community as a quaint little library that they love to visit. In spite of its size, there is a strong sense of pride that we are a part of the community. Visit any library across the nation, and you will see that there are many people who feel a strong attachment to own community library. Why? A strong community library happens when staff and patrons come together to care for their neighborhood library. That caring comes from a sharing input and ideas.
When people feel comfortable in voicing their feedback and opinions about their library, there is a greater sense of community. They feel vested. As Greenwalt suggests in “It’s All Around You”, “People have a lot of personal attachment to their home libraries, and with that a need for customization. By bringing more of our patrons into the conversation, we can improve those feelings of involvement across the board, hopefully upping our usage in the process.” (p 3) In turn, people regularly come to the library, raising circulation, attending programs, and making the community stronger.
Yes, our library is small, and people do give us feedback about the size. We often hear things like “you need more room”, “you don’t have enough computers” or “you really need a parking lot”. Yes those statements are all valid. We also hear about the benefits of a small library. “This is such a charming space” or “I love how welcome I feel here”, or “for the size, you have a great collection”. The input shows us that the community is paying attention. We also have a suggestion box that where patrons can add their input anonymously, though it’s rarely used. As a staff member, it is my hope that people feel comfortable enough with us to give us input personally.
Like patrons, library staff must also feel like valued members of the institution. That in turn makes them better employees “If you wish to pursue and implement new ideas, you need to create an environment where staff at all levels feel comfortable proposing improvements to any aspect of library service.” (Greenwalt, p 1) Employees shouldn’t hold back what could be a great idea, out of fear of being shut down or rejected. Nor should they be afraid to offer ideas that they feel are silly or outlandish. Instead, they should be encouraged to float around ideas regularly. The desire to give input means that they care about their workplace.
Will all of their ideas be implemented? No. Some input might not be practical, but by acknowledging that a staff member’s ideas are important, it builds a stronger workplace. When Greenwalt talks about website developers and failure, the example also fits into a library setting. “Failure is an option here—it helps build a better product” (p 1) For libraries, that “product” is a welcoming, and familiar space. For every failed idea, there are many ideas that may not fail, and have the potential to build a stronger library setting.
Both patrons and staff want their input to be heard. Acknowledging feedback from both staff and patrons is very important. Feedback varies greatly, everything from a very helpful “please move the board books so my toddler can reach them” to the less practical “build a bigger library”. The most important thing about input is to let patrons know that their feedback is important, that they are being heard, and that they are a valued member of their community library. Any and all input should be acknowledged as important and valued. This in turn makes everyone stronger, thus making the community as a whole stronger.
Greenwalt, T. (2014). It’s all around you: creating a culture of innovation. http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2014/02/its-all-around-you-creating-a-culture-of-innovation/