Ok. Crazy as it sounds, it’s been nearly two years since I started as Library Director at Camp Verde Community Library. When I took the job, I wasn’t really sure why I was needed. Fortunately I was given the freedom to figure that out on my own. It didn’t take me long to see ways to take library services to the next level (and I’m NOT talking about the 2nd floor) and to begin to get a vision for the future.
Early efforts went toward reorganizing the space and stuff inside the library to better use what we have. We did this by maximizing space for the public and minimizing space for staff, by making staff and services more accessible to patrons, and by improving the organization and display of materials to make them more accessible.
To illustrate what I mean when I talk about taking library services to the next level I’m going to use an analogy given to me by our Library Teen Advisory Board Manager, Sebra Choe. The telephone. Forty years ago (when the current library was built, by the way), how did you use your telephone?
First of all, it was tethered to the wall. It was used to make phone calls. Then came answering machines and wireless handsets. It was still mainly used to make phone calls, but now you might be able to walk outside or into the garage while chatting. Or, you could record calls that otherwise would have been missed.
How do we use phones today? Now they are called smartphones. First and foremost is mobility. Phones can go everywhere we go. They are no longer primarily used for phone calls. Here are a few of the uses we find for our smartphones these days: camera/video, text, calculator, calendar, voicemail, email, FAX, Internet access, phone book, GPS/maps, directions, personal assistant, alarm clock, news/reviews, read books, listen to music, watch movies, check the weather and play games. I’ve even seen a man ask his phone to tell him a joke about librarians. And it did!
Obviously there is a vast difference between phones of 40 years ago and phones today. Not unlike libraries. The library used to be a place where we went to find books. Period. Ok, maybe read the newspaper or a magazine. Libraries used to be places where we whispered and walked on tiptoe, where professors sent us and librarians intimidated us. Today’s libraries are more like busy community hubs where people meet for recreational, educational and social activities in addition to feeding their reading and/or media dragons.
Camp Verde library patrons have been showing us how they want to use their library. Use statistics show participation levels up in some key areas over the last fiscal year:
- public Internet use – up 35% (does not include people using our wifi)
- library programs and attendance – increased an average of over 183% and 343% respectively (does not include attendance at the Creator Faire)
- total circulation – up 8% (before the beginning of Summer Reading Program!)
- volunteer participation – 54% more volunteers giving 88% more hours to the library
Traffic counts show an increase of 12% over fiscal year 2013. Since we just installed a people counter and quit relying on ourselves to make a tic mark for each visitor we have discovered that we were underestimating the amount of traffic walking through our door. Averages using tic marks in May 2014 show 139 visitors per day, averages with the people counter for June so far show 239 visitors per day. So, the question is, why are 160-340+ people coming into the library daily? To attend programs, to volunteer, to use technolgy, to use our space, to socialize and more.
This is not the traditional way libraries have been used and it’s a far cry from where we will go in our new library. Books are still important, but not central much as making phone calls on our smartphones is important, by no means its primary use. Literacy involves a lot more than being well-read. It includes competencies in 21st Century Skills.
Libraries today are used as community centers, especially in small rural communities like Camp Verde where there are not many other options for safe, supervised activities, for neutral meeting spaces, for leisure/recreational use, to learn technology and support educational goals.
What are we doing that’s new for us and what are we seeing in a few other libraries around AZ?
New for us in the past 2 years:
- Community outreach – SciTech Festival, Trick of Treat on Main, Creator Faire and other Town festivals, took library services to the VV Senior Apartments and a local daycare, and to Cottonwood for the annual Children’s Celebration
- Early Literacy – Raising a Reader program, First Things First and Baby Brain Time
- Focus what you Geek – Geek the Library campaign, Brown Bag Lunch programs
- Exploring technology – lending e-readers & tablets, Teen Tech week, Teen game nights
- TAB – Teen Advisory Board and attendant teen programming/participation
- Dewey – our own bearded dragon
Other Libraries = opportunities/possibilities we are excited to bring to Camp Verde:
- Public libraries partnering with community colleges/universities (Prescott Valley, South Mountain Community College, Alexandria Networks from ASU Skysong)
- Space for entrepreneurs – makers & creators (Prescott Valley’s Digital Media Lab, Mesa’s THINKspot, the hive @ central Phoenix Library, Co-working spaces, ASU Skysong)
- Support for economic & community development (Scottsdale’s Eureka Loft, Job and Career assistance, ASU’s Rapid Startup School)
- Access to technology & telecommunications (Cottonwood’s Media Lab, Computer Training labs, 3D Printers and design, the LibraryBox Project)
- Coffee chats/cafés (Cottonwood’s World Café, Prescott’s Skype with Authors)
- Tutoring & School Zones (Chandlers Read to Succeed tutoring program, Prescott Valley’s afterschool tutoring for teens)
- Public art displays (Sedona, Cottonwood, Prescott routinely hosts a variety of local shows)
- Conservation and preservation opportunities (Monarch Waystation, butterfly/hummingbird garden, water conservation, night sky ordinance)
These represent the tip of the iceberg in offering 21st Century Skill building to our library patrons – leadership, digital literacy, emotional intelligence, global citizenship, problem solving and team-work, to name a few. I am excited about the potential for Camp Verde. Library services have gone about as far as we can go with what we have in our current location. It’s not that I am envious of what other libraries get to do, but jealous for Camp Verde because people here deserve to have these or similar opportunities in their own community. Good change full of good opportunity is coming. If we remain tethered to the wall in a world of mobile phones, we’ll find ourselves left further and further behind.