Tailored services – that’s how we roll

This fabulous cartoon came to me via Teacher Librarian Network on Facebook tonight.

Libraries of the future

What do you think?  Is this the future?  Swallow a pill and you’ve read a classic?  Have the characters in a book step out and become a projected holograph on the wall in front of you?  Robot library staff?  Will we reach a time when paper books are just a fond memory?

I personally think not – at least not for a while.  A quick pop quiz this week with a bunch of Year 10 classes as they passed through my booktalking clutches and quizzed them on their library usage – ours I know about, but I was interested in whether they used the public library.  Most did not, and it certainly depended on the kind of class they were.  Higher streams using it more than lower.  Students seem to have had a range of experiences when they’ve been mixing it up in the public libraries.  It seems staff there aren’t familiar with the kind of things they need, perhaps remembering from their school days what they required, or even more enthusiastically encouraging them to look at new things about which the particular librarian they approach is an expert.  I think there is some room for public librarians to get familiar with the kind of things our students study, to find out what topics are taught and to make contact with school librarians to talk curriculum matters.  What books work for subjects, what won’t work.  That at least is the feedback I got from my guys.  The quest for information to complete assignments often yields better results at school because we are working as a conduit between teaching staff and students, providing specific titles which match specific topics.  We know the level of the resources the students need, and we can tailor our advice to the right level.  (There is an exception to this though, one public library in our area is hugely popular with the students and has an ex school librarian manager, students report that they have loads of things that are useful and that they want to take home, that is awesome!)  However I know that often the experiences of students at public libraries when on a quest for information are often less successful than if they took their query to their school library.  The school library has purchased specifically for that curriculum area, we know the kind of information which will work for the student.

At school we are tailoring our stock specifically to our target audience, it is youth specific and responding to feedback from teachers and students.  No robots can do what we do!  In a school we are tailoring our services to our students, to the people we see in front of us every day.  Micro tailoring if you will.  This just isn’t possible when you are catering to a while town or city with a Public Library.  They have more buying power than we do, are able to stock more copies of popular items but are more general in their approach because they have to be but in terms of having a specific focus on youth and the curriculum then the school library is where it is at.  We should celebrate our specialness, and think about the students we have who are using the public library for homework and research and think about who is taking them there.  That would in most cases be a parent.  Do the parents think about the resources in the school library in the same way that they think about the public library?  I think that perhaps parents are assuming that information is information and that the public library has a youth section and therefore will be able to cater to the needs of their kids.  But that ain’t necessarily so bro!

Parents, your kids should use the school library as well as the public library, most times instead of the public library when it comes to resources for homework.  This is our specialty area.  Our whole library is a youth section!  This again makes me wonder.  How many parents ever set foot in a school library?  Not many I’m thinking.  There is scope for a parents information blitz here I think.  Something to mull further on.


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  1. #1 by sengaw on February 27, 2013 - 3:03 PM

    Great post Bridget! Maybe the day will come when we can somehow absorb the contents of a novel by osmosis but your points about the “human” element will always remain true. The best part of reading a great book is then being able to discuss and share our thoughts and views with others (even if that’s being forced on you by your English teacher!)

    I couldn’t agree more with you when it comes to connections with public libraries and our parent community. I’ve just presented at the recent Otago/Southland LIANZA Library Assistant’s Day on A Day in the Life of a School Librarian and ended with some practical steps to how we could “get to know each other better”.

    Parents often feel sidelined when it comes to their children’s education as they progress through secondary school and the library is one of the places where we can work to make them feel part of it. This is going to make up part of my workshop at the up-coming SLANZA Conference in July. So excited!

    Understanding how others do things has the potential to make us even better at what we do and maybe even helps us to understand the why a little clearer. 🙂

    • #2 by Bridget Schaumann on March 24, 2013 - 7:26 PM

      I’m agreeing on all counts Senga. I think parents feel marginalised because they don’t know what’s happening, we need to come up with clever ways of getting our messages out there. We are hoping to address this a little in our new SLANZA PD Badges, looking at what some people do to share the going’s on in the library. We can’t wait to share it with everyone.

  2. #3 by Ruawai Community Library on March 19, 2013 - 11:39 AM

    Great post Bridget. I agree that in school libraries we have a unique opportunity to cater to and for an “interest” group, therefore we can buy what our customers want and need. I love tailoring my buying to my customers and not just letting a company send me ‘best sellers’. I don’t like just receive standing orders, when I did I always felt guilty about the books nobody read. That isn’t to say that I always pick winners, but I have a better chance because I know my readers.
    Also I hope there is never a osmosis with reading. I love the whole experience, reading slower or faster, in the quiet or in the family room with the TV blaring, on the beach or in the bath.

    • #4 by Bridget Schaumann on March 24, 2013 - 7:24 PM

      I think what you are describing Lisa is passion. Passion for your students, your library, your readers at school and your personal reading. That’s part of what makes an awesome school librarian in my book!

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