The One Thing ….Return Yourself To The Library
What makes a Public Library a public library? For me the answer is simple. It is people. People using the library as spaces to study, read, work, connect with each other and learn. Library people staffing the library to deliver storytimes, tech help, events, engage visitors with our collections, with authors, with trusted information and with local stories all the while connecting people to each other.
Here at Yarra Plenty Regional Library (YPRL), our new four-year Library Plan has been developed to focus on the road to recovery from the impacts of the pandemic on our communities. Our community focus will be on Knowledge and Learning, Wellness and Connection and our organisation focus will be on investing in our staff and the way we work. These have been identified with our three member Councils who fund our regional library service as priority needs. For YPRL the Library Plan has been designed to make sure our service meets community needs to encourage people back into the library as we have what they need when they need it.
From the plan we have developed our Programming Framework comprising 10 streams as our community has told us they want to enjoy safe events, want them to be free and need support in some areas of their lives to recover. The framework is to guide our library staff on what events and types of community partners to approach to ensure our efforts make a difference and meet community needs at the local level.
Meanwhile, here in Victoria, Australia we are emerging from the longest lockdown in the world. Our communities remain anxious and after 6 significant lockdowns over the last 20 months our communities are feeling socially disconnected, worried about their children, their futures, with some have experienced significant losses of income through job losses, or business closures due to the pandemic and ongoing restrictions. Around the world public libraries are finding our communities slow to return to public spaces such as libraries. In a recent library survey our community told us they were:
- Concerned about COVID (either hygiene, or health issues)
- Many were happy using eResources
- Were out of the routine of visiting a library
- No longer had the same need to borrow items
- Had issues with distance to the library
- Were more likely to now access information through their own technology
So at Yarra Plenty Regional Library we are responding to this by working with other Public Library services across Victoria on the Return Yourself to the Library campaign. This campaign is designed to address the reticence by some library users to return to the library, as pandemic restrictions are eased across Victoria. A range of 20 second long videos will follow a stickperson exploring all the services on offer at public libraries. These storybeats explore:
- Beautiful study or work spaces available
- Tech Help and Access to digital tools
- Focus on inclusive and safe library spaces
- Digital services
- Storytime and Events
- Get that good book
- Get social with each other in safe spaces
The marketing collateral will be disseminated throughout our communities in shopping malls, community organisations, partner organisations and through local government eNewsletters and digitally through our social media channels and those of our partner organisations.
And all this is designed to help our libraries be filled with people, rejuvenating our spaces and their own lives through their interaction with the library in whatever form they need.
Yes, Libraries Change Lives but without our library members returning to enrich our library spaces, and our programs our services will not continue to be funded. Libraries will struggle to argue that we are relevant and essential at the local level without the stories of people’s lives being changed and the statistics to prove we are used and useful.
The One Thing is always People.
Previously Published in Civica’s The One Thing series
The One Thing series aimed to seed broad dialogue for change within the library ecosystem. Civica engaged Australian Library Consultancy 641 DI to lead a “Thought Leadership project for the library sector”. Entitled “The One Thing” and drawing on library leaders from around the globe, the focus was on critical or emerging challenges for the library sector. The project delivered a series of short articles or “Thought Pieces” published progressively through 2021 and 2022. You can read all six thought pieces here.