This blog post was written by Suzanne Morrison, Communications Coordinator at TechAlliance.
If you’ve been even half listening to the #ldnont community on social media this summer or perhaps bumped into a street team while grabbing lunch downtown, you probably already know that the London Public Library is part-way through their ambitious community engagement strategy to help develop their next strategic plan.
I had the opportunity last night to participate in a stakeholder lab at the Central Library as a member of Emerging Leaders. A small group of young professionals from different parts of the city, we navigated thought facilitated dialogue that helped us think about what we want out of our local libraries over the next 10 years.
Throughout our conversations, it quickly became clear that every single one of us used the library in different ways.
I had come in a half-hour before the session to wander the business aisle of the stacks to look for some books to improve my presentation and public speaking skills. I sometimes feel like I’m part of the small group of romantics left in my generation that still see value in the discovery that comes from sitting in a physical pile of books. Search engines can’t find you what you don’t know you’re looking for. At least not yet, anyway.
Another participant spoke passionately about his love of e-books, and the need for improved infrastructure to make accessing e-books through the library easier. And yet another unashamedly admitted that he don’t use the library for its media at all, but instead for its meeting spaces and public rooms.
At the end of the evening, and despite our different understandings and use of the space, I was struck by how easily we could come to a shared vision of the future for our local libraries, and a shared value of why they are so important.
The theme of the library’s strategic plan and the focal point of its engagement activities – the concept that “library space is community space” is really what it all came down to.
Libraries create access to education and resources that break down social, cultural and economic barriers. They enable us to better ourselves, and through that better our city and our economy. They are already spaces for the community right now.
As we look forward though, as we digitize and create ease of access to more information than we know how to navigate, libraries become the space to get direction from experts, the place to learn to do the things we teach ourselves online, and the place to look up from our devices and say “hello stranger.”
In the future, our library isn’t just for the community; it’s where we become a community. Library space is community space.