As if public libraries have ever had the problem of having too much money, news from the Speak Up for Libraries conference painted a dark picture of what the coming year may bring, at least for UK libraries. Concerns of budget cuts from public funding sources, worries over offering a full selection of new and updated titles within the libraries’ means, and fears about losing relevance among members of a digital culture cast a pall on the gathering.
But according to an article for The Bookseller, there were a wide variety of potential solutions offered for many of the key concerns libraries face. The first was to keep concrete data on hand about the wide reach of libraries among their patrons. This data would provide evidence for beleaguered city and town council members to see the effectiveness of libraries in order to hopefully help them continue to vote for funding.
The conference cited “ignorance” as one of the chief factors in causing harm to libraries, specifically ignorance of what libraries can offer to their patrons. With many users and politicians remaining unaware of the many ways a library contributes to the public other than just dusty, molded print books, it’s easy to understand why some people don’t feel the call to support libraries.
Perhaps the most important factor discussed was ways that libraries can demonstrate their relevance to both the public and the deciding policy makers. Rather than continuing to work in two camps–that of protest and of persuasion–speakers outlined the need for a united front for libraries and encouraged them to rely on demonstrating how vital they are within their communities. This important status comes down to seeking out the patrons who already take full advantage of their libraries and encouraging them to continue, while also reaching out to those members of the community who do not use the library. This outreach can attract more regular visitors by meeting needs that would-be patrons may not be aware of, such as streaming movies, magazine and newspaper downloads, ebook lending, MP3 downloads, and more.