Week 4: Redesigning the library’s role

There is so much change and uncertainty going on in the LIS world that it can be overwhelming and sometimes disheartening: Many of the main ebook publishers are refusing to allow libraries to loan their books; plenty of libraries are experiencing drastic cuts to their budgets and circulation figures are down in academic libraries. A lot of the news these days is bad news.
But every now and again I’ll come across an article or topic that gets me hopeful and excited about the future of libraries and the last few weeks reading have done just that.

I really liked the reading this week and the concept of designing rather than finding a solution to a problem. I think that for too long libraries have been perceived in the traditional way and the majority of people out there believe that they no longer have a use for a library because they still associate it with solely being about ‘brand book’. In fact a lot of the people I know are actually afraid to visit their public library as they don’t feel welcomed. My own public libraries ‘reference desk’ is not advertised as so, and few patrons realise that the librarian is sitting there to be of help as opposed to sitting there because she is super busy, so they are afraid to bother her. I love the idea of design thinking and can see so many potential small design changes in my local library, such as improved signage and more interactive website features that would make a huge difference to the over all library user experience.

I remember the lecturer in one of the modules I did last semester ‘Leadership and Change Management’ saying that for a business to succeed it needs to constantly reassess it’s goals and to look for opportunities to change even when business seems to be going good because the time will inevitably come when the business will be forced to change. I think that time has definitely come for libraries and by reading about the concept of ‘library 2.0’, which calls for a paradigm shift and urges for transformational change on a deep level, I can see that the LIS community is certainly thinking about these things but what I can’t understand is that few people outside the LIS community are aware of the changing role of libraries. When I told a guy the other day that I was studying library and information studies he thought for a moment and then said ‘I suppose that’d be a nice career if you like reading books and stuff.’!

So I really like the idea of getting out there and observing and interviewing library users and non-library users and trying to come up with designs to best offer them the services they need. Then maybe LIS professionals will be able to work with the community to redesign the library’s role in the community, and people will no longer think that I librarian sits around reading books all day!

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4 responses to “Week 4: Redesigning the library’s role

  1. Reblogged this on Professional Issues in Information & Library Careers and commented:
    Articulate and integrative post by Julie McGuirk about Design thinking. I was particularly struck by the second paragraph and her observations about the real-world usefulness of designing.

  2. reflecting on what you say that ‘few people outside the LIS community are aware of the changing role of libraries’. Maybe libraries should now be called ‘information repositories’? is it time to re-brand? otherwise people will continue to think of the library as ‘the place with books (that I can now buy cheaply on Amazon)’.

    • I think we might be surprised at what people’s view of a library is now. Public library use is up in recent years due to the effects of the recession. In particular outreach services are very much in demand, as people seek new pathways in education and up-skilling.

      I have an article somewhere about the Greek library service, and how it is going about changing its services and engaging users in new, innovative ways. Of course, much of it is not down to the technological factors that we all seem to consider each week, but on economic ones which are arguably more volatile.

  3. I think it is interesting how perceptions of libraries range in between the two extremes of “the outreach centre” and just a place with dusty old books. In the economic recession, either of these two perceptions are just as likely to be seen by people. With continual community outreach and new user centric designs, we just might be able to stabilize the library’s role in people’s viewpoints. While being an outreach centre and supporting people’s immediate recession-sparked needs is fine for now, this perception does not promote longevity. The library has so much else to give to a community that needs to be recognized.

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