In our Community Relations & Advocacy class, George posed an interesting question: “Is there a way to capture…instances where a library or librarian has made a real difference and corral that into evidence of value that would compel others to use and support the library?”
I have a couple thoughts on ways that libraries can make a real difference, some evidence that may encourage support of the library as a valuable information source. First, libraries partner with local nonprofits and social service agencies to support the desemination of information about their services. For instance, I have seen where Tulsa libraries provide information about domestic violence intervention services information in their public restrooms. The idea behind this is that while victims of abuse are kept under surveillance by their abusers and are thus unable to request information about how to escape abuse, the restroom is a place where victims may have a moment of privacy. There they can pick up a “DV restroom card” with info on how to get help and slip it in their purse or pocket without their abuser knowing. The fact that libraries are making an effort to provide information, safely and privately, to a population that desperately needs it—I think the victims that are able to escape because of that information would say the library made a real difference in their lives. This isn’t a small population either—statistics indicate that 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
I think the people who learn to read through library literacy programs would say that the library made a real difference in their lives. I think the people who get free tax assistance at the public library, and the people who find employment after using library resume writing and job searching resources would say the same thing.
What we need is a way to stay in contact with the people who have been helped so they can help us advocate for the value of the library. Many nonprofits have speakers’ panels, people who volunteer to speak to groups of people about the value of the service they received at Domestic Violence Intervention Services, or at The Salvation Army Homeless Shelter, etc. They speak to church groups, rotary groups, the elks, the moose, kiwanis clubs, school kids, to educate them about issues like dating violence, homelessness, hunger, child abuse, and how these groups can help. Maybe libraries need speakers’ panels to talk about literacy, intellectual freedom and how to get help with finding the information they need?
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My boss has a bit of a knowledge management problem. A knowledge management problem in the form of four large U.S. Mail tote boxes full of mostly unlabeled stacks of papers and files. It’s really not his fault–the man is grieviously overworked. On a quiet day he works until about 7:00 pm; on busy days he works till 10:00 pm. I’ve seen him pull all-nighters where he finally goes home at 6:00 am to shower and shave, and then come back to work. He desperately needs a secretary, but the problem with nonprofits is there is always more work to be done than people to do it, and funders prefer to support organizations with low overhead expenses. Something like 85 cents of every dollar donated to my agency goes straight to client services, which is phenomenal–over and above most nonprofits. But some staff really struggle to meet the demands of the job with so little help. And it really seems unfair when the long hours take them away from their kids, as in the case of my boss.
Anyway, I’ve offered to put in some extra hours between semesters to try to help him get his files in order. God forbid anything should happen to him, because the agency would be up a creek without a paddle if they needed to locate a document in his office! One bonus is the agency is finally crawling into the 21st century by adopting some technological advancements (that were adopted everywhere else at least eight years ago). We finally got the scanner function enabled on our copy machine, so we can scan multi-page documents and save them on the server in under two minutes, rather than taking 30 minutes or more to scan one page at a time on a desktop scanner. Huzzah! It’s completely ridiculous how exciting this is to me! But scanning at a snail’s pace has taught me appreciation. I’m betting my boss’s file situation would benefit from scanning and saving some of the most important documents on the server. Because, thanks to recent IT developments at my agency, I can now open a 50-page document on the server and send it to print on the copy machine (which is at least four times as fast as my desktop printer), rather than having to wait for it to print on my desktop, then go make copies! Will wonders never cease…
When you’re scrambling to meet a deadline, the minutes count!
And now for something completely different, I thought this was a lot of fun! If you think of a good Tom Swifty, leave a comment! I thought of:
“Which surgeon did your rhinoplasty?” Tom asked nosily.
My favorite one from Wikipedia is:
“They had to amputate them both at the ankles,” Tom said defeatedly.
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