Seeing yourself at the library

25 05 2007

Today on Seth Godin’s blog, (see: I’m just not that kind of person), reader Craig asks why a friend of his chose to buy something other than a Dyson vacuum when the old Dyson Craig had given her finally went kaput. She loved the Dyson, Craig says…so why didn’t she get another?  Seth’s theory:

Craig’s friend didn’t see herself as the kind of person who would buy a Dyson. Sure, she might use one, especially if it was free. But buying a weird, fancy-looking vacuum is an act of self-expression as much as it’s a way to clean your floors. And the act of buying one didn’t match the way his friend saw herself.

Now, lets take the pieces of that and insert “library”  wherever it says “vacuum”:

[She] didn’t see herself as the kind of person who would [use the library]. Sure, she might use [the materials at a library like books, movies, music]. But [going into a library to get those things] is an act of self-expression as much as it’s a way to [get that information]. And the act of [visiting a library] didn’t match the way his friend saw herself.

Pretty eerily correct.  I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I do feel rather superior every time I visit my public library to pick up a book or a movie. It’s as much a part of doing my duty as it is saving money on information. I’m a future-librarian, and as such, I see it as part of my duty to visit the library, even when my main branch library is pretty run down and has some interesting patronage I’m not usually exposed to. I believe a fellow-library student called it “nasty.” She said she wouldn’t go to the main branch because it was just “gross.” And as I was getting all riled up to tell her that it didn’t matter, I realized suddenly that it did. Just because she’s a future-librarian [edit: she has a job in DC as a law librarian], too doesn’t mean she has to put up with unattractive surroundings and admittedly eclectic clientèle.

She doesn’t see herself as being a patron of that library. In otherwords, the library is not a reflection of herself.  How could any self-respecting person want to be reflected in the main branch of the APL? It is nasty.  She (and many others like her) have been disenfranchised simply because many of our older libraries are so unkempt.  I’m not meaning to be harsh on the APL (thankfully, they’ve just gotten approval to have a new building constructed for the downtown main branch). But it’s a fact of life. If people can’t see themselves visiting a library, then they won’t visit the library.

It’s like Laura Schwartz, head of the Fine Arts Library at UT said: [paraphrase] “How do you  renovate when you don’t have the money? You find the money.”

Bring on the grant-writing courses.

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5 responses

25 05 2007
Diana

Hey Katy! 🙂

Love the site, although I’m a little confused by the fireworks imagry…. I would have expect a zoom of gorgeous book binds (or people, computers, etc. something library-themed).

LOVE the design of the date stamp.

I am always impressed by your dedication, and I know this blog will be a great project for you (as if you need more!). 😀

25 05 2007
librarynation

The fireworks imagery was inspired by the title of the blog: Library Nation. When I was bouncing ideas off Don for imagery for the header, I asked “What’s the first thing you think of when I say ‘Nation'” and he said “Heil Hitler”. Since I obviously want to portray the Library Nation as a positive nationalist movement (it’s all about user-advocacy…see Creating Customer Evangelists) I needed a positive image. One that was celebratory. So I picked fireworks. 🙂

11 06 2007
Jeff

Great post. So many patrons and especially librarians would hate to work in a public library simply because of the patrons. It’s not easy work when you deal with an generally undesirable population, but it is very fulfilling. We are having that mix at my library with some of the new, a bit more afluent, patrons mixing with the poor, and sometimes undesirable patrons, they don’t seem to notice. One even offered to give one of the transients money. She asked me first if it was OK. I don’t know why.

11 06 2007
librarynation

I try to keep my own opinions in check at work, but generally speaking, I like the idea of the more affluent members of society interacting with their fellow citizens of all economic and educational levels. It seems like it might help develop some empathy for those less fortunate, and also encourage them to support better systems of care and rehabilitation for those who need it.

13 06 2007
Library Revolution » Blog Archive » It’s an asset to the community as a whole, but not for me.

[…] a post from Library Nation discussing the way the image of the library fits (or doesn’t fit) with our own self image. It […]

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