Re-envisioning library services

In May, TSLAC will host three Harwood Public Innovators Labs in Arlington, Houston, and San Angelo. The labs provide a framework for a fundamental re-examination of the way that libraries work to more effectively ground their services in the context of their communities. Approximately one hundred persons will attend each of the three sessions where they will consider new strategies for serving their clienteles. This national workshop, developed in consultation with the American Library Association, seeks to place libraries at the center of civic efforts to convene groups to solve problems and be “change-leaders in their communities,” in the words of Rich Harwood, founder and president of the Harwood Institute.

Why is TSLAC offering these workshops? Because libraries are in the process of a transformational change from storehouses of information to centers of learning and community engagement. Our commission has set as a strategic goal to “articulate and facilitate a future vision of Texas libraries as central to the informational, economic, and technological needs of their communities.”

Most of us who work with libraries have had to defend questions about why our institutions are still relevant in the age of the Internet. We take a deep breath and start to explain about the evolving roles of libraries as community hubs for civic engagement, lifelong learning, trans-literacy, technology access, and workforce development. But I’ve noticed that I haven’t heard that question in a while. It might just be me, but I have this dawning awareness that we might be moving beyond that question. That finally people are noticing that libraries aren’t just defined by what’s available to check out or download, but access to a place where the information content combines with the synergies of professional staff, community resources, technology, and shared spaces to make possible new models of learning, access and discovery. This view is supported by a recent study of public libraries by the Aspen Institute that focuses library future planning around three strategic assets: people, place, and platform.

I am confident that the Harwood Labs will offer a significant number of public and academic librarians in Texas an opportunity to focus the elements of these newfound models toward building a new vision of library services in their communities and institutions.

Check out http://www.theharwoodinstitute.org/ To read more about the Harwood Public Innovation Labs or this article from Library Journal about applying the Harwood model to libraries: http://bit.ly/1Frevkm.

Slots are still available for public and academic librarians the Harwood Lab in San Angelo, May 20-22 (register at http://sgiz.mobi/s3/Harwood-Institute-Public-Innovators-Lab-Registration-San-Angelo)

and in Houston, May 27-29 (register at http://sgiz.mobi/s3/Harwood-Institute-Public-Innovators-Lab-Registration-Houston).

The Aspen Institute report, “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries,” by Amy Garmer (who will be presenting on a panel at TLA on future visioning for libraries), can be found at: http://www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/docs/pubs/AspenLibrariesReport.pdf. Obtain PDF Reader here if needed.

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