Getting deeply local at our libraries


In April I was at an event where I used the phrase get deeply local to describe a key strategy for  libraries that want to survive. It was picked up by a couple of   other speakers there, so I thought I would elaborate.

In a world of generic best sellers available in supermarkets, music and video downloadable by bittorrent and university libraries getting best bang for buck with large “one size fits all” journal database subscriptions , I think that to best way to serve our communities libraries need to shift our resources toward a greater focus on the deeply local.

deep #1 Uploaded to Flickr on February 28, 2008 by slimmer_jimmer

deep #1 Uploaded to Flickr on February 28, 2008 by slimmer_jimmer

I think our strengths over large ubiquitous sites like Amazon, Google and Wikipedia are – or should be:

  • our deep, human knowledge of the people in our community who use us
  • our deep, human knowledge of people in our community who do not use us
  • our deep, human  knowledge of the specific information resources needed by our community
  • our deep, human  knowledge of how our community wants to find and discover information
  • our deep, human knowledge of locally produced information
  • our human ability to provide many different services to the same individual by our knowledge of them as people
  • our human ability to anticipate desires and to delight our local community
  • our buildings as a social hub for our local community
The Deep Uploaded to Flickr on May 26, 2009 by eNil

The Deep Uploaded to Flickr on May 26, 2009 by eNil

With this knowledge, we have the ability to:

  • connect people in our community with each other
  • connect our community to local information
  • connect our users to the outside world of information
  • put local information where our community can best access it
  • provide tools for remix of local information
  • help our local communities to organise, publish and make findable their own local information
  • connect our local information to the world for those outside our communities

There are many methods to do this.  Some examples of  things that Google, Amazon and Wikipedia cannot do what we can do – and that maybe we should give more resources – are:

  • Institutional repositories of publications in academic libraries
  • Digitization projects for ephemera and special collections held by libraries
  • Local history projects
  • Community information
  • Homework clubs
  • Homebound services
  • Events designed to be intergenerational – like a grandparents vs children’s wii tournament
  • Job clubs that help locals support each other in finding information and upgrading skills to find jobs
  • Partnerships with other local groups or institutions, like the Health Bags in Topeka Shawnee County Public Library in partnership with a local hospital.
  • Online initiatives to promote local discussion of reading, like the Yarra Plenty Reads blog or the Mosman Readers Ning
  • Projects like Kete Horowhenua that allows community members to create an online repository of locally produced content important to the community
  • Providing remix sites where users worldwide can mashup local data, like Digital New Zealand’s Memory Maker and Widget Gallery .

10 thoughts on “Getting deeply local at our libraries

  1. Hi Kathryn,

    Great post on a topic I am thinking more and more about too. I am moving to a position where its seems a much better use of our limited staff to focus on the local; look after the stuff that only we know and care about. Let National Library cataloguers and contracted book selectors look after all the general stuff, the 80% of the stuff that is common among most public libraries, and let us look after the critical balance, the local stuff, which makes our community ours.

    cheers Jo.

  2. What a wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing your insight. This is valuable not just to the public arena but all libraries. The best kind of information 🙂

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