It is interesting to think about all the ways people use libraries. Some use them for checking on newspapers, or they like to use the computers. Others go to the library when they need access to material that is hard to come by, for example think of things like annual statistics or government data. Some people come to the library to do research on particular subjects and others come for a quiet place to study or to learn with a group of friends or associates.
There are lots of reasons people visit libraries and what is interesting to me is there is this growing field on outcomes in libraries. Basically that means we as a society are beginning to pay close attention to how people get the most out of libraries and you’d be surprised to hear that it’s not about most of the things I’ve already listed. The people that have the most to show for their library experiences seem to use the library in a pretty unique way- – they stroll through the stacks reading the books that catch their attention.
I was surprised to read that people who use libraries for computers, or for research don’t feel as connected to their library experience as those who wander and choose books at will, but I don’t think it’s as much about the style of using the library as it is about the intention one has before entering the space. People who stroll the stacks expect to find something of value, well, they are like spelunkers or pearl divers. When they visit the library it is a unique habitat for them, and the folks that get the most out of their visit have learned to pour through the materials in order to find their treasure.
A lot of folks complain about libraries not being things. You’ll hear the library only has dated materials. It doesn’t have the kind of books a person is looking for. It doesn’t have nice quiet spaces for learning. It doesn’t have enough computers to meet it’s patron’s needs. Now I wouldn’t say that those are inaccurate portrayals of people’s experiences. But if you think about it, there can never be enough because the more something is valued the more folks will flock to it. Libraries have an uphill climb to completely satisfy their patrons needs but despite that situation, I think a lot of libraries are doing their level best to make their environments as pleasing and as accessible to their users as possible.
It’s awful hard to demand users “stroll through” the library. But libraries aren’t like book stores. They have books that book stores would remove from the shelves because they aren’t selling. And while savvy buyers in book stores would think that is a great idea…Tons of valuable information is printed on all of those pages that libraries are collecting because that is what libraries do! They collect information! Can you imagine how it would be if only the popular information were retained in the world. Libraries aren’t about keeping the latest best sellers on the shelves, although it’s a good bet that they’ll have them or that they’ll be getting them in soon. No, libraries are about access to all kinds of information. Books, CD’s, Videos, Newspapers, Magazines, Historical documents, government records and filing materials. And libraries tend to believe in giving patrons access to pretty much all of it! But it isn’t until the user, the reader, ( I’m talking to YOU), enters into a library with something more than an immediate goal in mind, well, that is when things get really interesting!
So, what do I want you to do? I want you to come visit the library! You don’t have to bring anything, you don’t have to do anything magical. Walk in and take a stroll. When something attracts your gaze PICK IT UP! If it doesn’t quite satisfy you…keep looking. Change your approach. Select again. Listen to your heart and mind. What’s going on? Follow those inner prompts and see what your local library has to offer you!
What do libraries want in return? They want users to respect their materials and to return them so that others in the community can use them too. And they do most of this for FREE, at least as close to free as you can get in this world these days.
Just think about it.