Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crisis? What crisis?

Fine.  I agree that public libraries have been taking some pretty wicked shots to the chin for quite a while now.  We all know the litany of issues: decreased funding, increased number of formats to purchase, publishers being squirrely about granting us access to their content... and so on.

All true.  All relevant.

And nowhere close to being the full picture.

Just last night a colleague from a neighboring library system and I did a presentation on library business resources for an entrepreneur/business plan class hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce.  To a chorus of many oohs and ahhs, we covered the content that we originally planned to cover. Comments ranged from "This is the best night of my life" to "I loooove the library" to "Who knew?!?" to "Get out!!!".  And then they wouldn't let us leave the room.  Beyond the library's straight up business resources they wanted to know about our ebooks. About our downloadable audiobooks.  Is there an app for that so I can listen on my phone?  What's this Zinio thing?  You have downloadable music?!  How does that work?  Grants research?  Yes?!  Could you show us?  And all of this is free? 

Seriously.  We couldn't break away.

Which leads me to believe two things: despite what we tell ourselves, there is no crisis in public library land.  There is only a communication crisis, or at the worst, a crisis of not looking for opportunities.  The second thing that became apparent last night is that people love to hear about their public institutions performing well.

Any time you can get a group of people to sit through a 2.5 hour long presentation and still be engaged and asking more questions at the end, you don't have a crisis.  You have a revolution.