Posted on behalf of Sarah Greenberg, Director of Library Resources, Grand County Library District
As libraries expand with streaming video, 3-D printers, and makerspaces, some of us with shrinking budgets and limited space are feeling left behind. Fortunately, CALCON 2015 opened my eyes to some of the small and inexpensive things we can do at our libraries to open doors for our patrons. Things like offering healthy snacks to help feed our kids who might be growing up hungry. Or making sure that all staff know how to handle basic tech questions, so patrons feel comfortable asking anyone for help with an eBook. Even weeding your collection to maintain a reputation for currency and reliability can help to build a relationship of trust between a library and its patrons.
One of my favorite sessions, presented by Lindsay Roberts and Andrea Reveley, discussed how to obtain and make use of patron feedback. My library already has a guest book at each branch, which has been a wonderful source of (largely positive) patron thoughts and comments. Roberts and Reveley suggested using a “Sorry Log” to track patron complaints, noting that this method allows you to tally the number of complaints about different services or areas. They used the example of students requesting double-sided printing, circulation desk staff noting these in the “sorry log,” and the tech department realizing the extent of the requests and implementing a change. And this change began with a simple paper and pencil!
Another fantastic session covered data visualization. I could have spent the whole day learning from Linda Hofschire and Meghan Wanucha, they had so much valuable knowledge to offer! By helping the numbers tell a story instead of sitting crowded on a page, data visualization puts numbers into context and establishes a focal points of meaning. Data visualization takes a little time and effort, but pays off big by helping the public or your board of directors easily grasp the meaning of the numbers you’re presenting. Best of all, charts, graphs, and other data visualization techniques can be created using software as simple as Power Point.
In order to connect libraries to their local communities, staff from Denver Public Library presented “Programming for the People.” Even though my library doesn’t have the marketing staff or budget to develop a monthly booklet brimming with programs, I gleaned plenty of great ideas from this session. DPL used simple survey techniques, like one-question and sticky note surveys, to make programming decisions based on community input. They asked patrons where they spent their time in order to seek our new partnerships. There were lots of low-cost programming ideas as well, including an adult reading challenge called “Winter of Reading” and hosting a game night. I loved the “walk a doc” program for libraries serving large senior populations – a doctor volunteers her time and patrons can sign up to take a walk around the park with the doctor, asking questions all the while.
CALCON 2015 proved to be the best of what libraries have to offer – full of ideas, thoughtful collaboration, active minds, and a welcoming community. I realized new and creative ways to stretch a limited budget to make the library an active community member and partner, and met people passionate about sharing knowledge and resources. Colorado libraries are doing great things to engage their communities and, in the process, are changing the way people think about libraries.