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David Lee King

Can a Library be your Office?



OK – I know a library can be MY office … ’cause I work in one. But how about your patrons?

I was just reading Chris Brogan’s post (nice guy – I met him at SXSW last week) about where he works – frequently in a bookstore or a coffeeshop. And that made me think a bit … do his points about working in bookstores and coffeeshops work for a library too? Let’s experiment a bit and find out.

Here are his points about why he works in bookstores and coffeeshops, but with the word “library” inserted … with some comments from me:

  • Libraries have books, which are full of ideas. When I work here, I can pluck a book off the shelf, get an idea, and get a new perspective on my project. Yep – we have this one covered pretty well.
  • Libraries have fresh food and lots of people anxious to serve me the food. It means I can focus on what I’m doing and not worry about the sustenance part. Whew – my library, at least, has this one covered too. How about yours – do you have a coffeeshop in your library? More importantly … do you allow patrons to eat and drink in the library?
  • Libraries have big parking lots and lots of room to hold brief, cafe-shaped meetings with a few people. They’re not the best place to conduct official business, but they’re perfect for brainstorming and idea gathering and status delivering. My library has this one covered adequately too – we have a large parking lot (though it’s usually packed pretty full – we’re a popular destination in Topeka). And we have a variety of places to meet in the library – meeting rooms, smaller study rooms, and plenty of tables and power outlets. How about your library? Would anyone get “shushed” if they were holding a meeting at a table in your library?
  • Libraries are usually staffed with pleasant people who don’t do what I do, so they’re willing to chat for a few minutes, but won’t bury me in the details. We’re friendly, but would we chat with Chris? Probably so … but most libraries really aren’t set up for this. Desk staff are sitting at a desk, waiting for people to come to them – not walking around the library, chatting with and helping patrons (i.e., like most other service industries do).
  • Libraries are actually fun. How many people’s offices are fun? OK – my office is fun! And my library is fun, too. Is YOUR library fun? If not … why not?

So what’s the point here? Libraries have the potential to be GREAT co-working facilities for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Add a little coffee to the mix … add the ability to connect with others for casual conversations … and remove some of our out-of-date barriers (i.e., No talking! No cell phones! No food allowed!) … and libraries can be very relevant, cool places to “do business.”

What do you think? Would a small business owner or a freelancer want to work in your library? Are you set up to allow that?

Picture by Chris Brogan

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://abbagliati.blogspot.com/ Enzo Abbagliati

    Great post, David. I would like to translate it to Spanish and publish it in my blog, but I haven’t found the type of license you are using. Can I do it?

  • http://abbagliati.blogspot.com Enzo Abbagliati

    Great post, David. I would like to translate it to Spanish and publish it in my blog, but I haven’t found the type of license you are using. Can I do it?

  • davidleeking

    Enzo – yes, go ahead! I’m using a CC license … just haven’t gotten around to adding that to my footer. Thanks for the translation and the reminder!

  • davidleeking

    Enzo – yes, go ahead! I’m using a CC license … just haven’t gotten around to adding that to my footer. Thanks for the translation and the reminder!

  • http://www.thecurioussquid.com/blog Franklin S.

    As a student I work both in libraries and coffee shops constantly and think about these things constantly.

    Less Books. I know, crazy right? But lets face it, I bet my library could put 1/3 of all their books into compact shelving and almost nobody would notice. Which would lead to:

    More Space: Space is what is at a premium at my library, not books. We live in an age of endless information and almost no usably public space. Libraries are one of the few places anyone (including the homeless) can come chill out at for an afternoon.

    No Cell Phones: Because they are obnoxious and the threat of passive-aggressive staring by other patrons is the only thing stopping people from conducting inane full-volume conversations beside me as I try to work.

  • http://www.thecurioussquid.com/blog Franklin S.

    As a student I work both in libraries and coffee shops constantly and think about these things constantly.

    Less Books. I know, crazy right? But lets face it, I bet my library could put 1/3 of all their books into compact shelving and almost nobody would notice. Which would lead to:

    More Space: Space is what is at a premium at my library, not books. We live in an age of endless information and almost no usably public space. Libraries are one of the few places anyone (including the homeless) can come chill out at for an afternoon.

    No Cell Phones: Because they are obnoxious and the threat of passive-aggressive staring by other patrons is the only thing stopping people from conducting inane full-volume conversations beside me as I try to work.

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  • http://readinghacks.com/ jonathan

    A great point. In libraries favour when compared with many cafes is you can stay in the library all day and don’t have to keep buying food & drink to feel welcome.

    I think we have a couple of people regularly using our library to work. We allow phones & food. We don’t sell food but there are plenty of cafes with 2 minutes walk. Our branch has a couple of spots where a few people could gather round a table and 2 small (2 person) study rooms. Later this year we’ll have wireless which I think will make a huge difference.

  • http://readinghacks.com jonathan

    A great point. In libraries favour when compared with many cafes is you can stay in the library all day and don’t have to keep buying food & drink to feel welcome.

    I think we have a couple of people regularly using our library to work. We allow phones & food. We don’t sell food but there are plenty of cafes with 2 minutes walk. Our branch has a couple of spots where a few people could gather round a table and 2 small (2 person) study rooms. Later this year we’ll have wireless which I think will make a huge difference.

  • http://hazmanaziz.com/ Hazman Aziz

    In Singapore … Figures from the National Library Board (NLB) showed an increase of nearly 10,000 visitors a month since the start of the recession last year.

    From April 2007 to March 2008, libraries here averaged 129,933 visitors per library each month. But from April to December 2008, it went up to 139,088. The figures for the first three months of this year are not yet available.

    More people also borrowed self-improvement books – 6 to 10 per cent in the same period.

    Elsewhere in the world, US and Canadian libraries have also seen borrowing and visitor numbers rise, and experts have attributed them to the downturn.

    Mr Gerry Meek, director of Calgary Public Library, told Canada’s The Globe And Mail: ‘We’re kind of a recession sanctuary.’

    Well in short, .. ‘In good times or bad, libraries will continue to serve as beacons of information, knowledge and lifelong learning,’

    Url: http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/news/story/0,4136,196613,00.html

  • http://hazmanaziz.com Hazman Aziz

    In Singapore … Figures from the National Library Board (NLB) showed an increase of nearly 10,000 visitors a month since the start of the recession last year.

    From April 2007 to March 2008, libraries here averaged 129,933 visitors per library each month. But from April to December 2008, it went up to 139,088. The figures for the first three months of this year are not yet available.

    More people also borrowed self-improvement books – 6 to 10 per cent in the same period.

    Elsewhere in the world, US and Canadian libraries have also seen borrowing and visitor numbers rise, and experts have attributed them to the downturn.

    Mr Gerry Meek, director of Calgary Public Library, told Canada’s The Globe And Mail: ‘We’re kind of a recession sanctuary.’

    Well in short, .. ‘In good times or bad, libraries will continue to serve as beacons of information, knowledge and lifelong learning,’

    Url: http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/news/story/0,4136,196613,00.html

  • http://franblog.wordpress.com/ Francesco

    Regarding the 4th point (“Libraries are usually staffed with pleasant people…”), I think the point here is not about the desk staff, but about the possibilities you have to meet friends or classmates, with which you could chat for few minutes. Is an aspect of the “socialization of reading” a library could provide, sometimes more than a cofeeshop or bookstore.
    Francesco, Roma (Italy)

  • http://franblog.wordpress.com Francesco

    Regarding the 4th point (“Libraries are usually staffed with pleasant people…”), I think the point here is not about the desk staff, but about the possibilities you have to meet friends or classmates, with which you could chat for few minutes. Is an aspect of the “socialization of reading” a library could provide, sometimes more than a cofeeshop or bookstore.
    Francesco, Roma (Italy)

  • http://librarianbyday.net Bobbi Newman

    unfortunately one barrier at the library where I work is power. Its an old building and there just aren’t that many outlets. I think there are 2 in the patron area. Not much we can do about that without drilling through concrete, new wiring and some other electrical stuff I’m sure I know nothing about, or of course a brand new building! ;-)

  • http://librarianbyday.wordpress.com Bobbi Newman

    unfortunately one barrier at the library where I work is power. Its an old building and there just aren’t that many outlets. I think there are 2 in the patron area. Not much we can do about that without drilling through concrete, new wiring and some other electrical stuff I’m sure I know nothing about, or of course a brand new building! ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/goodridge Tyson Goodridge

    Great post- interesting discussion. My .02..

    I’ve been working at our local library for the past 3 months, and it’s been terrific. If you get their early enough, you can get one of their study rooms (only 3 of them) Plug in, and away you go! Great for a mini office…

    however…
    – Yes, people woulds “sshuuush” me if i started talking. that’s why they have the rooms..
    – we don’t have a coffee shop nearby, but a coffee machine- not bad.
    – Definitely no cell phones- that’s why i go to the library- guaranteed silence to concentrate…
    -my library isn’t THAT fun. these days it is senior citizens working on their taxes, other self-employed people, and tons of kids running around downstairs in the playroom…

  • http://twitter.com/goodridge Tyson Goodridge

    Great post- interesting discussion. My .02..

    I’ve been working at our local library for the past 3 months, and it’s been terrific. If you get their early enough, you can get one of their study rooms (only 3 of them) Plug in, and away you go! Great for a mini office…

    however…
    – Yes, people woulds “sshuuush” me if i started talking. that’s why they have the rooms..
    – we don’t have a coffee shop nearby, but a coffee machine- not bad.
    – Definitely no cell phones- that’s why i go to the library- guaranteed silence to concentrate…
    -my library isn’t THAT fun. these days it is senior citizens working on their taxes, other self-employed people, and tons of kids running around downstairs in the playroom…

  • http://librarygarden.blogspot.com/ JanieH

    We have at least a eight “regulars” that I can list on a first name basis that use our library and tech center as their office on an almost daily basis. One man is a freelance reporter and we talk regularly, two are non-fictions authors, and several others have small businesses or are consultants.

    They use our library because it is centrally located in the heart of downtown, we have a wonderful cafe, wireless access everywhere (including our outdoor third floor terrace), lots of tables all with power outlets, a state-of-the-art tech center with a scanner and loads of software, bright natural lighting and a staff who cares enough to get to know them.

    This is not a new phenomenon for our library and pre-dates the wireless and cafe factors. We have always had a small business reference section for just this purpose and we now partner with SCORE to provide counseling for small businesses several days per week.

    So, yes… with the right factors, the library is definitely the perfect office space for many.

  • http://librarygarden.blogspot.com JanieH

    We have at least a eight “regulars” that I can list on a first name basis that use our library and tech center as their office on an almost daily basis. One man is a freelance reporter and we talk regularly, two are non-fictions authors, and several others have small businesses or are consultants.

    They use our library because it is centrally located in the heart of downtown, we have a wonderful cafe, wireless access everywhere (including our outdoor third floor terrace), lots of tables all with power outlets, a state-of-the-art tech center with a scanner and loads of software, bright natural lighting and a staff who cares enough to get to know them.

    This is not a new phenomenon for our library and pre-dates the wireless and cafe factors. We have always had a small business reference section for just this purpose and we now partner with SCORE to provide counseling for small businesses several days per week.

    So, yes… with the right factors, the library is definitely the perfect office space for many.

  • alex zealand

    We definitely have many people ‘working’ at our libraries, even though we don’t have all of the items on this list. This is partly because demand for work space is so high these days that I think people would visit us 24 hours a day if we could be open.

    The only point I really have to disagree with from the original post is cell phone use – no one needs to be on their cell phone in an enclosed space where other people are working. And the last thing I want to encourage is patrons coming up to the desk while still engaged in a phone conversation and expecting library staff to wait for them to finish up, or worse, help them while they’re still on the phone.

  • alex zealand

    We definitely have many people ‘working’ at our libraries, even though we don’t have all of the items on this list. This is partly because demand for work space is so high these days that I think people would visit us 24 hours a day if we could be open.

    The only point I really have to disagree with from the original post is cell phone use – no one needs to be on their cell phone in an enclosed space where other people are working. And the last thing I want to encourage is patrons coming up to the desk while still engaged in a phone conversation and expecting library staff to wait for them to finish up, or worse, help them while they’re still on the phone.

  • http://tinfoilraccoon.com/ Rochelle

    David–how many WPM can you type while wagging your finger? I appreciate that you introduce different uses for libraries, but there’s an old school, “I know what’s best for you” librarian tone, dolled up in this season’s 2.0 finery. Most of us do the best we can, based on our staffing, community needs, funding and facility limitations. We’re trying to honor and balance the needs of new users with the needs of traditional library users. With an increasing number of the low-skill, suddenly unemployed , we’ve got to shift priorities again. Serving paninis and lattes to people who have other options for conducting their business are not on my “urgent needs” list. I am seeing people in their 50s and 60s who are having to apply for jobs for the first time in 25+ years, who look like they are going to cry when they learn that they have to fill out online apps. They don’t have email addresses, have never touched a mouse and haven’t touched a keyboard since high school. They’re taxpayers like the latte/laptop users, but libraries need to prioritize. It shouldn’t be an either/or but we can’t do it all. I feel that it’s our responsibility to focus on more immediate community needs. Our carrels are filled with self-contained laptop users who bring their own coffee and ask for help when they need it. We’ll even chat with them. How about some props for balance? Sorry if I’ve misread your tone, but I’m feeling sensitive about the have nots right now.

  • http://tinfoilraccoon.com Rochelle

    David–how many WPM can you type while wagging your finger? I appreciate that you introduce different uses for libraries, but there’s an old school, “I know what’s best for you” librarian tone, dolled up in this season’s 2.0 finery. Most of us do the best we can, based on our staffing, community needs, funding and facility limitations. We’re trying to honor and balance the needs of new users with the needs of traditional library users. With an increasing number of the low-skill, suddenly unemployed , we’ve got to shift priorities again. Serving paninis and lattes to people who have other options for conducting their business are not on my “urgent needs” list. I am seeing people in their 50s and 60s who are having to apply for jobs for the first time in 25+ years, who look like they are going to cry when they learn that they have to fill out online apps. They don’t have email addresses, have never touched a mouse and haven’t touched a keyboard since high school. They’re taxpayers like the latte/laptop users, but libraries need to prioritize. It shouldn’t be an either/or but we can’t do it all. I feel that it’s our responsibility to focus on more immediate community needs. Our carrels are filled with self-contained laptop users who bring their own coffee and ask for help when they need it. We’ll even chat with them. How about some props for balance? Sorry if I’ve misread your tone, but I’m feeling sensitive about the have nots right now.

  • davidleeking

    Rochelle – interesting take. For the record, I wasn’t meaning to wag fingers. I simply read Chris’s post and thought “why is he spending all that money, when he could be doing everything he named in a library?” Then I decided it would be interesting to change up his points, and think out loud for a bit … That’s all it was! My boss had the same take, and posted a comment on Chris’s post (look for the comment from Rob Banks).

    Also remember that my whole job is focused on the Digital Branch, and attracting patrons to use our digital branch. People without computers? They are not my branch’s clientele, simply stated.

    So … possibly different takes here?

  • davidleeking

    Rochelle – interesting take. For the record, I wasn’t meaning to wag fingers. I simply read Chris’s post and thought “why is he spending all that money, when he could be doing everything he named in a library?” Then I decided it would be interesting to change up his points, and think out loud for a bit … That’s all it was! My boss had the same take, and posted a comment on Chris’s post (look for the comment from Rob Banks).

    Also remember that my whole job is focused on the Digital Branch, and attracting patrons to use our digital branch. People without computers? They are not my branch’s clientele, simply stated.

    So … possibly different takes here?

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com/ joshua m. neff

    But David, this post doesn’t have to do with your digital branch, really. It’s about people physically coming into the library and taking advantage of the amenities and services. Right now, my library has bigger things to worry about than whether or not we serve food and drink to businesspeople, and we’re one of the bigger and better-funded libraries in Kansas. Yes, we should be friendly and welcoming to patrons, of course. And yes, I want the library to be a fun place (for both staff and patrons). But for a lot of libraries in Kansas, just making sure you have enough staff may be a bigger priority than providing a fun workplace for laptop-wielding businesspeople. And for patrons, finding a job may be more important that feeling comfortable working in the library.

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com joshua m. neff

    But David, this post doesn’t have to do with your digital branch, really. It’s about people physically coming into the library and taking advantage of the amenities and services. Right now, my library has bigger things to worry about than whether or not we serve food and drink to businesspeople, and we’re one of the bigger and better-funded libraries in Kansas. Yes, we should be friendly and welcoming to patrons, of course. And yes, I want the library to be a fun place (for both staff and patrons). But for a lot of libraries in Kansas, just making sure you have enough staff may be a bigger priority than providing a fun workplace for laptop-wielding businesspeople. And for patrons, finding a job may be more important that feeling comfortable working in the library.

  • http://www.thecurioussquid.com/blog Franklin S.

    In fairness, I don’t believe David ever suggested that staff should be serving lattes and paninis to businesspeople while they chat on their cell phones and monitor their stock portfolios on their laptops. The entire gist of the coffee/food question was whether it was available in/near the library.

    Most of the people I know who work at libraries are contract workers in their mid to late 20s and are hardly suite-wearing business people. I have endless sympathy for “traditional” patrons (whatever that means) but as a future MLIS student I think libraries will either have to adapt to changes in how people access information and use public space or become irrelevant.

  • http://www.thecurioussquid.com/blog Franklin S.

    In fairness, I don’t believe David ever suggested that staff should be serving lattes and paninis to businesspeople while they chat on their cell phones and monitor their stock portfolios on their laptops. The entire gist of the coffee/food question was whether it was available in/near the library.

    Most of the people I know who work at libraries are contract workers in their mid to late 20s and are hardly suite-wearing business people. I have endless sympathy for “traditional” patrons (whatever that means) but as a future MLIS student I think libraries will either have to adapt to changes in how people access information and use public space or become irrelevant.

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  • http://davidrothman.net/ David Rothman

    Franklin-

    In fairness, Mr. King was in fact suggesting that libraries should allow food and serve food in coffeeshops. When did coffeeshops stop serving lattes and sandwiches?

    In fairness, I haven’t the faintest idea why you think how old staff are our whether they wear suits is relevant to the conversation.

    In fairness, lecturing *Josh Neff* on the need for libraries to adapt to the changing information behaviors is pretty darn funny.

  • http://davidrothman.net David Rothman

    Franklin-

    In fairness, Mr. King was in fact suggesting that libraries should allow food and serve food in coffeeshops. When did coffeeshops stop serving lattes and sandwiches?

    In fairness, I haven’t the faintest idea why you think how old staff are our whether they wear suits is relevant to the conversation.

    In fairness, lecturing *Josh Neff* on the need for libraries to adapt to the changing information behaviors is pretty darn funny.

  • Laura H.

    Two thoughts –

    Is the library really cheaper than a bookstore? He may not actually be purchasing books there. I’m guessing coffee costs roughly the same wherever one is, though not being a coffee-drinker, I’m not sure about that. :)

    My other thought is that I’m a bit bothered by your statement that “People without computers? They are not my branch’s clientele, simply stated.” What about people who don’t have computers, but come into the library, use its computers, and need to use the website – the digital branch – to find something? Aren’t they your clientele too, even though they may not own, or be very comfortable with, computers? Maybe I’ve misinterpreted what you meant, though.

    Looking forward to your response.

  • Laura H.

    Two thoughts –

    Is the library really cheaper than a bookstore? He may not actually be purchasing books there. I’m guessing coffee costs roughly the same wherever one is, though not being a coffee-drinker, I’m not sure about that. :)

    My other thought is that I’m a bit bothered by your statement that “People without computers? They are not my branch’s clientele, simply stated.” What about people who don’t have computers, but come into the library, use its computers, and need to use the website – the digital branch – to find something? Aren’t they your clientele too, even though they may not own, or be very comfortable with, computers? Maybe I’ve misinterpreted what you meant, though.

    Looking forward to your response.

  • http://otherlibrarian.wordpress.com/ Ryan Deschamps

    I’m also worried about the “People without computers?” statement. We need people in this profession to think globally about service, which means breaking down silos rather than building them. Emphasizing the needs of one user group at the expense of all others is not a positive way to approach this scenario.

    I also want to say that not all small business people are super-rich hotshots though. Many are a just a client away from being unemployed themselves, often without the benefit of Employment Insurance or other social safety net advantages. I think offering the library to small business people is a great idea and an essential component to solving both the needs of small businesss and the needs of those who are unemployed/re-skilling.

  • http://otherlibrarian.wordpress.com Ryan Deschamps

    I’m also worried about the “People without computers?” statement. We need people in this profession to think globally about service, which means breaking down silos rather than building them. Emphasizing the needs of one user group at the expense of all others is not a positive way to approach this scenario.

    I also want to say that not all small business people are super-rich hotshots though. Many are a just a client away from being unemployed themselves, often without the benefit of Employment Insurance or other social safety net advantages. I think offering the library to small business people is a great idea and an essential component to solving both the needs of small businesss and the needs of those who are unemployed/re-skilling.

  • http://www.thecurioussquid.com/blog Franklin S.

    David Rothman:

    “In fairness, Mr. King was in fact suggesting that libraries should allow food and serve food in coffeeshops. When did coffeeshops stop serving lattes and sandwiches?”

    Mr. King can probably clarify his meaning, but I read his post as meaning that having an independent coffee shop inside/near the library was a good thing. Certainly most of the big public libraries I have used do this.

    “In fairness, I haven’t the faintest idea why you think how old staff are our whether they wear suits is relevant to the conversation.”

    I’m not sure what you mean here. I never mentioned anything about the age of staff or what they wear. The suit comment was meant to point out that many of the people I know working at libraries do so because they are young and self-employed knowledge workers, not traditional business-people.

    “In fairness, lecturing *Josh Neff* on the need for libraries to adapt to the changing information behaviors is pretty darn funny.”

    I don’t think I was lecturing anyone and don’t know who that is, so I must have missed the joke. Glad you found it funny though.

    :)

  • http://www.thecurioussquid.com/blog Franklin S.

    David Rothman:

    “In fairness, Mr. King was in fact suggesting that libraries should allow food and serve food in coffeeshops. When did coffeeshops stop serving lattes and sandwiches?”

    Mr. King can probably clarify his meaning, but I read his post as meaning that having an independent coffee shop inside/near the library was a good thing. Certainly most of the big public libraries I have used do this.

    “In fairness, I haven’t the faintest idea why you think how old staff are our whether they wear suits is relevant to the conversation.”

    I’m not sure what you mean here. I never mentioned anything about the age of staff or what they wear. The suit comment was meant to point out that many of the people I know working at libraries do so because they are young and self-employed knowledge workers, not traditional business-people.

    “In fairness, lecturing *Josh Neff* on the need for libraries to adapt to the changing information behaviors is pretty darn funny.”

    I don’t think I was lecturing anyone and don’t know who that is, so I must have missed the joke. Glad you found it funny though.

    :)

  • http://davidrothman.net/ David Rothman

    Franklin-

    Age & attire:
    “Most of the people I know who work at libraries are contract workers in their mid to late 20s and are hardly suite-wearing business people.”

    Lecturing:
    “…but as a future MLIS student I think libraries will either have to adapt to changes in how people access information and use public space or become irrelevant.”

  • http://davidrothman.net David Rothman

    Franklin-

    Age & attire:
    “Most of the people I know who work at libraries are contract workers in their mid to late 20s and are hardly suite-wearing business people.”

    Lecturing:
    “…but as a future MLIS student I think libraries will either have to adapt to changes in how people access information and use public space or become irrelevant.”

  • http://www.thecurioussquid.com/blog Franklin S.

    David Rothman:

    Age & Attire: I was speaking about people who come to do work at libraries, not library staff. Sorry if this was confusing and offended you.

    Lecturing: I don’t think my tone here was lecturing, I was expressing an opinion. It also was not directed at anyone in particular. If Mr. Neff feels that I was lecturing him I am sure he can defend himself.

  • http://www.thecurioussquid.com/blog Franklin S.

    David Rothman:

    Age & Attire: I was speaking about people who come to do work at libraries, not library staff. Sorry if this was confusing and offended you.

    Lecturing: I don’t think my tone here was lecturing, I was expressing an opinion. It also was not directed at anyone in particular. If Mr. Neff feels that I was lecturing him I am sure he can defend himself.

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com/ joshua m. neff

    Ryan, you’re right, I shouldn’t assume that independent businessfolks working out of a bookstore or library are fancy-schmancy rich folks with lots of money.

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com joshua m. neff

    Ryan, you’re right, I shouldn’t assume that independent businessfolks working out of a bookstore or library are fancy-schmancy rich folks with lots of money.

  • http://lblog.jalcorn.net/ Louise Alcorn

    Here’s a flip-side comment: We’re lucky enough to have a big, beautiful, 13yo library with plenty of work space and (thanks to the immense foresight of the woman who hired me, may she rest in peace) tons and tons of electrical outlets. There are days when every table has someone with a laptop and/or textbooks hunkered down for the day.

    Re: cell phones. Someone brought this up. This is an issue with the business users – and others – and my friends who work at bookstores find this as annoying as we do, for the record. At my library, we deal with the cell phone issue as a behavioral issue – if it’s a quick call in a low tone, we leave them alone. If it goes on a bit, we offer them a study room to complete their call. If they’re completely obnoxious, we tell them so and make them go get a little sunshine. Several regular patrons have complimented us, as they don’t feel like they’re being punished simply for owning a cell phone (some local libraries just say no phones, full stop, which I find ridiculous in this day and age – luckily my director agrees), but we balance that with a need for reasonable quiet.

    However, I have to agree to some extent with Rochelle, as we’re having to focus our limited resources where we can do the most immediate good. We have the space and the electricity (I’m sure Bobbi would drool at our setup – sorry, Bobbi!) and we have a cafe (private vendor) so we’ve met them *more* than halfway. Before we had the cafe, we had a lot of requests for such a thing, but I didn’t feel we were depriving any of our patrons of a needed service, just simply not offering them an enhanced, non-need-based service. There’s a difference.

    Once we’ve met some basic needs for working users, however, we need to turn aside and help the 50- and 60-something who are near tears just trying to get online to find/apply for a job. For the simple health of our community, we need to do all we can for these folks. Frankly, I feel my library should be doing more to help them, but we keep claiming no staff/no time. I think it’s more likely a lack of imagination and drive, but that’s another issue.

    Libraries across the country are making efforts to be more user-friendly in so many ways. Franklin’s comments about “compact shelving” are naive, as this sort of storage model is exactly what public libraries try to avoid – it’s ridiculously expensive, and useless to the browsing public. If his local library is tight for space, what they need is a combo of severe weeding, imaginative re-use of space and massive fundraisers to expand or build. The latter takes public support, however, and if everybody is at the local Borders, that’s hard to find.

    More than my 2 cents.

  • http://lblog.jalcorn.net Louise Alcorn

    Here’s a flip-side comment: We’re lucky enough to have a big, beautiful, 13yo library with plenty of work space and (thanks to the immense foresight of the woman who hired me, may she rest in peace) tons and tons of electrical outlets. There are days when every table has someone with a laptop and/or textbooks hunkered down for the day.

    Re: cell phones. Someone brought this up. This is an issue with the business users – and others – and my friends who work at bookstores find this as annoying as we do, for the record. At my library, we deal with the cell phone issue as a behavioral issue – if it’s a quick call in a low tone, we leave them alone. If it goes on a bit, we offer them a study room to complete their call. If they’re completely obnoxious, we tell them so and make them go get a little sunshine. Several regular patrons have complimented us, as they don’t feel like they’re being punished simply for owning a cell phone (some local libraries just say no phones, full stop, which I find ridiculous in this day and age – luckily my director agrees), but we balance that with a need for reasonable quiet.

    However, I have to agree to some extent with Rochelle, as we’re having to focus our limited resources where we can do the most immediate good. We have the space and the electricity (I’m sure Bobbi would drool at our setup – sorry, Bobbi!) and we have a cafe (private vendor) so we’ve met them *more* than halfway. Before we had the cafe, we had a lot of requests for such a thing, but I didn’t feel we were depriving any of our patrons of a needed service, just simply not offering them an enhanced, non-need-based service. There’s a difference.

    Once we’ve met some basic needs for working users, however, we need to turn aside and help the 50- and 60-something who are near tears just trying to get online to find/apply for a job. For the simple health of our community, we need to do all we can for these folks. Frankly, I feel my library should be doing more to help them, but we keep claiming no staff/no time. I think it’s more likely a lack of imagination and drive, but that’s another issue.

    Libraries across the country are making efforts to be more user-friendly in so many ways. Franklin’s comments about “compact shelving” are naive, as this sort of storage model is exactly what public libraries try to avoid – it’s ridiculously expensive, and useless to the browsing public. If his local library is tight for space, what they need is a combo of severe weeding, imaginative re-use of space and massive fundraisers to expand or build. The latter takes public support, however, and if everybody is at the local Borders, that’s hard to find.

    More than my 2 cents.

  • davidleeking

    Laura H., and others that are “a bit bothered by [my] statement that “People without computers? They are not my branch’s clientele, simply stated.” Let me clarify a bit.

    Yes, yes – lots of people use our website and our computers who don’t have one at home – of course those are also my customers. A longer version of what I think about that would go along the lines of “everyone in Shawnee County has a computer, because they all have access to the library.”

    But at the same time, I was responding to Rochelle, who said: “I am seeing people in their 50s and 60s who … have to fill out online apps … don’t have email addresses … never touched a mouse …” These people don’t have computers, and obviously haven’t ever used a computer, or even had a reason to, in or out of the library. Honestly, seriously … no, these people really aren’t a digital librarian’s customers … not until they show some interest, anyway. People unfamiliar with computers who take a computer basics class at the library? They are showing an interest, and are my customer.

    Why does this sound so odd? I see it as very similar to a TV ad agency – they aren’t marketing to people who don’t own TVs, are they?

    Our websites should all be extremely easy to use and should be as quickly intuitive as putting on a hat is to the average person. But if that person hates hats, doesn’t see the sense in wearing one, doesn’t like how they feel, and hopes to retire before having to wear one … well then, that person is not my customer. Not until they want a hat, anyway.

  • davidleeking

    Laura H., and others that are “a bit bothered by [my] statement that “People without computers? They are not my branch’s clientele, simply stated.” Let me clarify a bit.

    Yes, yes – lots of people use our website and our computers who don’t have one at home – of course those are also my customers. A longer version of what I think about that would go along the lines of “everyone in Shawnee County has a computer, because they all have access to the library.”

    But at the same time, I was responding to Rochelle, who said: “I am seeing people in their 50s and 60s who … have to fill out online apps … don’t have email addresses … never touched a mouse …” These people don’t have computers, and obviously haven’t ever used a computer, or even had a reason to, in or out of the library. Honestly, seriously … no, these people really aren’t a digital librarian’s customers … not until they show some interest, anyway. People unfamiliar with computers who take a computer basics class at the library? They are showing an interest, and are my customer.

    Why does this sound so odd? I see it as very similar to a TV ad agency – they aren’t marketing to people who don’t own TVs, are they?

    Our websites should all be extremely easy to use and should be as quickly intuitive as putting on a hat is to the average person. But if that person hates hats, doesn’t see the sense in wearing one, doesn’t like how they feel, and hopes to retire before having to wear one … well then, that person is not my customer. Not until they want a hat, anyway.

  • davidleeking

    Josh – no beef with finding a job being more important than being comfortable, if having to choose … but I see no reason why both can’t take place at the same time.

    And – “Right now, my library has bigger things to worry about than whether or not we serve food and drink to businesspeople” – not really where I was going with that. My library has a cafe. Yay for us. Other libraries that don’t can simply allow covered drinks in the library (you wouldn’t believe the amount of consternation that simple idea can cause).

  • davidleeking

    Josh – no beef with finding a job being more important than being comfortable, if having to choose … but I see no reason why both can’t take place at the same time.

    And – “Right now, my library has bigger things to worry about than whether or not we serve food and drink to businesspeople” – not really where I was going with that. My library has a cafe. Yay for us. Other libraries that don’t can simply allow covered drinks in the library (you wouldn’t believe the amount of consternation that simple idea can cause).