Saturday, June 16, 2012

Community Reference

The Douglas County Libraries has many extraordinary staff members. Four of them are Colbe Galston, Elizabeth Kelsen Huber, Katherine Johnson, and Amy Long. They are all librarians. I'm very pleased to note their recent article, Community Reference: Making Libraries Indispensable in a New Way. It's in the latest (June, 2012) issue of American Libraries.

Our library has been doing a lot of work on the cutting edge of our profession. This one - "Community Reference" - is important. It represents a shift from an internal to a more wholistic focus. Instead of asking what serves the library, we now ask how can the library serve the community? This may surprise some librarians, but it's not all about us. On the other hand, we have a host of skills that can not only make our whole environment (cultural, political, economic, etc.) better. This is also an opportunity for us to demonstrate our worth.

Let me also acknowledge a profound intellectual debt. The mantra of my staff's article - show up, pay attention, stay (or keep) in touch - I swiped from my good friend and colleague Rick Ashton. Rick used to direct the Denver Public Library. These days he runs the Downer's Grove (IL) public library. His articulation of those principles -- maybe 15 years ago or more -- has been working on my awareness ever since. But hearing it and putting it into practice are not the same thing. It has taken me -- and my rising young professionals -- a little extra time to catch up to the vision. Thanks, Rick. You were WAY ahead of the curve.

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