You’re probably familiar with the popular site Librarian Problems and the hashtag #librarianprblms. Lately, I’ve been thinking about LIBRARY problems. The essential question I’ve been asking when faced with an issue to address, a decision to make, a resource to allocate, or a problem to solve is this:
Are we solving a library problem? Or are we helping solve a community problem?
At CHPL, we’ve had the great good fortune to work with Aaron Schmidt on a year-long LSTA grant to assess and improve the user experience on all fronts. It’s transformative work that will have an impact long after the grant cycle ends. In one of our earliest workshops with him, he brought up this idea and it has stuck with me. I can’t even recall the context or the slide from the slide deck, but the message was this – Let’s make sure we are solving a community problem and not a library problem.
It’s simple, right? This is the essence of the business we are in, right? We are problem solvers! Whether helping a job seeker with a resume, a student finish a project, or making our space available for free tax help, we solve problems for and with our users and communities.
However, sometimes we lose perspective on the problem that needs solving. Sometimes we get overly invested in solving problems of our own creation and we forget to ask the essential question – “Whose problem is this?”
Here are a few refrains I often hear:
- “How can we increase program attendance?”
- “We have to get our circ numbers up.”
- “How can we get more people to use the databases we pay so much for?”
I think that these are all library problems. Libraries do something – plan a program, acquire materials, subscribe to databases – and then solve the problems that arise from those things. The solution to these problems isn’t a better program flyer or more displays or ordering promotional materials from the database vendor. Continue reading “#LibraryProblems”