Reflections on Atlas Threads: Communities

I have to confess that I found this thread overwhelming (which may have something to do with having read it in the evening after a long day.) From considering the pressures exerted by members on the library system, to thinking outside the library box in terms of topical centers, to contemplating the steps of an assessment process, I finished the chapter feeling that libraries, and I as a librarian, have more roles to fill than they (and I) can possibly manage. This is one of the exciting things about the field, but also a little scary. However, I think the reason this chapter was overwhelming to me because it was looking at these things in a broad, inclusive way. Once I have a library of my own, and I can use member feedback and conversations to limit my focus to a few main issues, I will have a more manageable scope. I look forward to that day. I think it will be helpful for me to re-read parts of these threads once I  am working in libraries and the purely theoretical will be more grounded in daily practice.

One of the sections of the thread that made an impact on me was the discussion of topical centers. At first, I was having a hard time picturing what these would look like in concrete form. But the examples of the entrepreneurium, the writing center, and music center made the idea come alive. I found it fascinating how the different member groups defined their needs differently, and how this affected everything from use of space to publishing guidelines to leadership of the groups. This was such a helpful reminder that there can’t be a one-size-fits-all librarian-directed solution (“Our writing center is working so well… let’s make a music center just like it…”) Even with the best of intentions, this would miss the point of true conversation about services. It’s frustrating that the visions of these topical centers in Philadelphia have not come to fruition due to budget constraints, but they serve as inspiring models nonetheless. One of the things I am pondering is how the spirit of spaces such as these (and the community input that imagined them) can be attainable in small ways during difficult budget times. Obviously I can’t create a space for two grand pianos in a school library, but how can I meet unique member needs in the same spirit?

Although I could understand the hesitation to divide librarians into types for the final section and focus instead on the unifying themes, I found the discussion of different types of libraries extremely helpful. Although I’m quite sure I want to work with young people in a school or public library, I was fascinated to read about some of the issues facing academic, government, special and other libraries. There is such complexity to this field, and the work done by some librarians (medical librarians, for example) is at this point almost incomprehensible to me, despite our shared job title. It’s helpful to see the commonalities of the job even when the tools and members might look very different, which is why the constant return to the mission statement works well for me. By the time I finish reading the last thread, that mission statement will be almost comically laden with layers of meaning. I suppose that is exactly the point.


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