Story 1: The Community Forum

Access to global information has exploded along with people’s concern with minimizing their carbon footprint and “acting locally.”  This has affected the purpose of the library, so that the Library is – most of all – a place for people to gather.  The focus is on promoting neighborhood cohesion and fostering face-to-face exchange among people.

Individuals and families use the libraries for reading, work and study.  Groups use the libraries for collaborative learning, literary, cultural and civic exchange, and community meetings.  The Library offers extensive programming.  The library emphasizes shared experiences around content instead of collecting content.  Circulating print material and media is a much smaller part of library services.

Library spaces can accommodate multiple groups of different sizes – either as stand-alone libraries or in joint-use spaces with other public services or community organizations.

The Library is a community builder in partnership with others, supporting a high quality of neighborhood and civic life.  It facilitates people learning from and engaging with each other.  New immigrants learn about the community from their neighbors.  Teens learn from first-generation college students about the promise of higher education.  Aspiring entrepreneurs learn from successful business people.  Neighbors gather to address community issues.  A shared community loan program is developed in one library.  In another, a neighborhood oral history project is launched.

Each library – how it is used, what material is available, what services are provided – is very different from the other libraries because specific community needs are different.  SPPL might maintain both a physical and digital gallery for each library of content created by children, teens, adults in the neighborhood.

SPPL’s primary investment is in staff and buildings.  In addition to managing the circulation of print and digital material, staff acts as facilitators, hosts, conveners, and community organizers.

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15 Responses to Story 1: The Community Forum

  1. SME says:

    Of the four senaria, this is most like the present, but gives a cogent plan for the future. Many of us will not and cannot live by apps alone. We relish the ability to go to a Place, of our own community. We see living people, not just texting and computer screens.

    Thank you for Libraries in our communities.

  2. Marcie says:

    The library is a place and many people value it as such. Witness the numbers of people in library buildings such as Rondo. The library building, its living staff, the other patrons, the variety of physical objects in the place, and the opportunities those elements provide are the attraction. Many citizens value the library as a destination and a positive place to take children. I like those libraries that are housed in buildings with other service providers. I go to the Highland Rec Center to walk and visit the library afterwards. I understand the Dayton Bluff collaboration with Metro State is successful and I expect the Maryland Ave. project will result in a popular library. While the future library may well combine all 4 scenarios, I believe buildings and live staff are essential to the future of the library and so I second the sentiments of the first commentator.

  3. Sarah Carter says:

    I agree with the previous two comments. This story takes advantage of all the assets of SPPL; the staff, facilities, and community members. This plan for the future will help the library remain central to community life in our “little” big city.

  4. Sara says:

    I like the idea of the library being the center of community life and learning.
    In the second scenerio the part that resonated with me was “Library services are delivered in community facilities, mobile labs, and on-line as well as in strategically located library buildings.”

  5. Janet says:

    Many people come to libraries to get materials to read and to do research. We come to find materials we cannot get at home–that’s why the library’s role as collector of quality materials is SO important! This story comes closest for me, but it sounds very extraverted. Many library patrons enjoy the introverted nature of a library–it is easy to be alone, to concentrate, to enjoy quiet. What is described here sounds noisy at times, and I cannot see why it would be considered “good” to decrease circulation of materials? Maybe I misunderstood that? The way librarians are described also is odd. It seems they will be asked to take on roles that maybe do not reflect their training and experience, not to mention their desires in becoming a librarian.

  6. Anonymous says:

    St Paul is broke yet the city keep all 13 libraries open which it cannot afford .The largest one (central)is closed 4 ot of 5 nights ,it is open late on Monday while the city built a new one in Daytons Bluff 10years ago inspite of having a population of 100000 less people than Mpls .Mpls have 15 libraries .
    Mpls merge their system with HENN Co now the their central have longer hours.ST PAUL have over 5000 people.

    ST PAUL shoudl consider merging with Ramsey and keep 11 liraries open with longer hours

  7. MEB says:

    This is the most comforting scenario. I think this encourages community and having people meet face to face.

  8. Jennifer says:

    I particularly like the acknowledgement that each location is unique and develops its ‘service plan’ in response to the smaller community within St Paul that it services. Localism is an important part of how libraries will retain their importance in the future

  9. Karen says:

    This scenario capitalizes on the strengths of the current system, and acknowledges the strong neighborhood structure in Saint Paul. It offers the place and resourcs supportive of each diverse neighborhood. To ensure its vialbility, I fear, will take strong partnerships, and heavy financial investment. This could be a challenge in our restructuring economy. I believe the technology-based third and fourth scenario would be discriminative, stratify users, and also require never ending investment in upgrades, and new technology.

  10. Anne says:

    I would add that with the reduction in school library services, our local elementary school leans heavily on the local branch – not just to check out books, but for librarians who can select appropriate materials to serve the curriculum needs and the reading levels of each class. They also make sure kids whose parents don’t take them to the library have at least limited access to circulating materials. And there is simply nothing online to replace the librarians who greet me at the desk when I’m in a crisis (My kid doesn’t understand odd numbers! The play I’m reviewing hasn’t been printed as a book yet!) and sympathetically help me find the thing I need, whether it’s in our diminishing supply of shared public print, or out there in that online wilderness somewhere.

  11. Jeanne says:

    This is the most traditional library scenario, and I really wish that I saw this in St Paul. My branch library (Central) has limited hours and staff and does not feel at all like a community gathering place. My one visit to the Highland Park branch gave me hope for St Paul–it had a pulse, a buzz, real energy and lots of patrons. I hope that the SPPL can achieve the community forum scenario in all of its branches. It owes at least that much to its patrons.

  12. Carrie Pomeroy says:

    This is the scenario closest to what I want for the smaller branch libraries. I’d still like to see enough books on the shelves for a satisfying and diverse browsing experience, though. I think community-oriented actual brick and mortar spaces are very important to maintaining neighborhood vitality. Once a neighborhood has had a branch, sometimes for generations, local businesses, organizations, and residents become intertwined with the space in ways that would be too painful and damaging to sever by closing any branch. Nothing could replace that.

    I think if the library wants to increase programming in a time of budget cutbacks, it will need to be able to lean more heavily on well-trained, reliable volunteers to be able to provide programming support. For instance, at some branches, volunteers already put on storytimes and craft times with kids, teach computer classes, and help with promoting programming at libraries, among many other functions. Involving more community members in these community-centered libraries would be a crucial piece. I get nervous when I see that librarians would be expected to be “community organizers” on top of all their other demanding, crucial duties. I do think what would be more appropriate is to help librarians identify and work with volunteers or neighborhood organizations who can serve a community organizing role for them, so librarians can focus on their very important roles as librarians.

    Partnerships with other organizations can be useful if they are implemented with much community input upfront; partnerships should NOT be thrust on library users without the library users getting say in whether these partnerships are actually helpful to them.

    I think the “quiet, introverted” experience one user described wanting to see protected can be preserved if many more social activities happen in meeting rooms rather than in the larger library space.

  13. SamLL says:

    I already have places to live & socialize. What I want from a library is plain and simple the ability to borrow a book that I want to read, so what’s most important to me is the breadth and depth of the collection of physical books and the ease of requesting transfers & new acquisitions.

    To me that’s the core service of a library and therefore what should be the highest priority.

    (Ebooks are currently rocking a 3% market share and don’t seem really ‘ready for prime time’ just yet.)

  14. Sue Shetka says:

    In today’s struggling economy, the current library format with its existing library branches is and will continue to be needed now and in the future. As the middle-class sector continues to shrink, less families will be able to afford Internet services at their home. Writers of all genres need access to physical libraries and their vast collection of resources, and to be able to gather with other writers to discuss the projects they are working on.

  15. Anonymous says:

    BE realistic people is nice to have a branch in every neighborhood but what the use when they have limited hours .With an eroding tax base ,closing/moving /downsizing of businesses out of St paul the city cannot afford all the branches keep 9 branches only and expand hours
    MAcy,Ford,US bank ,Lawson,Travelers and many others closed/moved or downsize .
    Mpls has 100000 more residents than St paul with 15 libraries of which 2 have limited hours and were close yet ST PAUL has 13 .It would be beneficial to close 3 smaller ones and open the rest with longer hours .St Paul had fewer branches when they had more residents 1000esidents
    W7th and D Bluff are only 10mins by bus to Central .

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