It’s time to track the outside world…

For a while, I’ve been doing a lot of listening.  I’ve listened in meetings, in appointments, at conferences and on listservs.  I’ve been sitting back and taking things in.  And more recently, I’ve started doing more talking.  Well, more conversing.  Talking with old friends, and meeting new friends and exchanging ideas via email.  It’s been energizing.

There’s one topic I’ve been dwelling on quite a bit and that’s the idea that we need to ask public library staff members to track specific groups and fields that are not necessarily related to our own.  So, instead of re-writing the idea, I’m just going to share a bit of my recent correspondence with a friend…

“One other note is that we have librarians who manage their own internal departments and monitor their own profession, but we need to ask library staff members to do more outward facing research.  I am of the opinion that each staff member in a library should be responsible for monitoring a broad knowledge area that is external of the library but could be incorporated in to library services or impact the library in some way.  So one librarian is responsible for monitoring local business and local food culture.  Maybe a circulation clerk is responsible for staying up to date on regional and national non-profit news.  Another clerk might be in charge of monitoring local health and social services activities.  This serves a two fold purpose.  The first is to find interactive touch points for the library to reach out to local groups and build partnerships of mutual benefit.  The second is to look at trends and issues facing other professions and seeing if their issues could potentially impact the library world and note how those professions addresssed the issue(s).  Libraries operate with a mindset that their problems are distinctly their own, but the problem and the solution are very often visible on the horizon often in a slightly different form.

What do you think?  Am I off base?  On track? Crazy?  I’d love to hear what you think.

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