LSC Journal Club: June 2018 Recap: Co-Designing the Library

The Vancouver Library Services for Children Journal Club is still going strong! We had our June meeting a few weeks ago and talked about co-designing the library with community members and barriers some community members face when accessing the library. You all know how much I care about community outreach, so this topic was right up my ally.  Here’s what we got up to.

First we reviewed the 2-page article by John Pateman on developing community-led systems. The community-led library model was developed in Canada and the U.K. and I’m always surprised how few American libraries know of it or implement it.  Pateman starts with the premise that we do a great job of serving people who need us the least. These would be the active users of the library. But there are also passive users (lapsed or ex-users) and non-users of the library. How are we reaching and serving these groups? He notes four barriers to access:

  1. Insitutional
    • requiring an ID to get a library card
    • requiring proof of residence to use online library services
    • Charging fines
  2. Personal and Social
    • family and cultural history with government institutions
    • poverty
    • language barrier
    • time
  3. Perception and Awareness
    • the library as a quiet place
    • fear of judgment based on child’s behaviour
    • demographics of those who attend programs
    • nothing there for them
  4. Environmental
    • hours of operation
    • time of programs
    • location
    • cleanliness

Keeping these four barriers in mind we then turned to the article by Virve Miettinen which documents  three ways the Helsinki Public Library engaged users to help co-design their library space. These three projects were part of  the building of a new library in the capital city for the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence. Their goals were to provide better customer service, empower citizens, and designate the library as a 3rd space in the community with a meaningful social infrastructure. Using the co-design process they sought to raise design awareness among both community members and staff members.  We broke into groups and each analyzed one of the projects. We asked:

  1. What was the strategy?
  2. What were the outcomes?
  3. What are the benefits and drawbacks of this strategy?
  4. Who is included? Who is excluded? What barriers are there to participation?
  5. How can we apply a similar strategy to our work with children and teens?

The three projects were: Participator Budgeting, Central Library’s Friends, and the Dream On! Campaign.  I took pictures of our large flipchart notes but they don’t translate well to a blog post. Email if interested and I can send them to you! Overall we were impressed with the level of involvement from the community in these projects though we questioned how much effort was put into recruiting members from a diverse array of backgrounds. The author didn’t really touch on this topic so it is hard to know. Some of the projects had a dual impact in that they helped the library achieve a goal and they gave community members skills they could take with them into their personal and work lives. We came away with inspiration on how to get kids and teens more involved in the planning and development of our library programs. Personally, my biggest take-away was to gather feedback with a purpose. Know what you’re going to do with the feedback before you design and administer a survey.

We’ll be taking a break over the summer but plan to be back in September with another article. Check out the Library Services for Children Journal Club website to stay up-to-date!

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