Panera Fridays

January 24, 2008

Michael Stephens posted a photo yesterday mentioning that he holds his Wednesday office hours at Panera Bread. It reminded me of an effort I made last year to encourage some of our reference librarians to set up a weekly shift at Panera (or Starbucks or Safeway). It seems like such a simple idea to get the library out in the community — visible in a place our patrons are.

  • Talk to the proprietor. I’m sure most would be happy to support a public library in such a simple way.
  • Buy a sandwich and coffee/tea.
  • Prop up a sign “Got a question? Get an answer! I’m a librarian.
  • Turn on your wireless laptop.

A librarian with access to the Internet and the library’s online collection of databases could surely answer most questions on the spot. Difficult puzzlers might be solved with a quick email or IM to the folks back at the branch. Answers could be sent to a portable printer or the patron’s email address.

Busy people might not think of the library in their daily routine. Let’s change that! A consistent reference shift (say, every Friday from 11-3) at a local wifi hotspot could make the friendly librarian at the next table much more visible than the big library building itself.

No one in our library has done this yet because, so I’ve been told, there’s not enough staff to spare and no overall vision for this to fit. (Sigh.) Does it need to be a big, planned project? Can’t we just try it and see how it’s received? Tell the staff you’re going to take a long lunch tomorrow … and do the field research while you’re at it.

My question to readers in LibraryLand: Is anyone doing a “Panera Friday”? Would anyone like to give it a try?

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Marketing a vibrant community place

October 18, 2007

First, a personal story; second, a library connection.

Although I’ve been using the photo-sharing website Flickr for nearly a year, September was the first month in which I posted a new picture every day. That’s not an achievement by Flickr standards, of course. There are some dedicated “365” folks who not only post photos every day for a year, but put themselves into the shots day in and day out. That’s got to be stressful.

My month went by with barely a glimpse of my own face. Instead, the 30 days of photographs (at right) document some of the people, places, and things I encountered along the way. In that regard, this compilation is quite astonishing to me — even though I lived it. I see some yard work; a published article; my daughter’s puppy; some hikes, bikes, and climbs; people I met; money I needed for a car; the car the money bought; and a spider I met face to face. That was my month — packed together on a calendar grid and posted a few weeks ago on Flickr.

Looking back at the grid — a diary of activity, in a way — I can’t help thinking:

We live life one day at a time, but don’t always see the quilt those daily patches make over time.

This calendar is a quilt showing me just that.

Now the library perspective…

Libraries are part of the communities they serve. They’re often a very active part — sometimes central to the daily life of community events, programming, and resources. So why not show that pulse? Why not display the vibrancy of daily life? One photo at a time might not mean too much, but look at the same sort of calendar quilt done for a library.

For nearly four months (until my schedule grew temporarily thick with other obligations) I posted daily photos to my library’s Flickr account. Seeing the calendar grid for just one of those months (May is shown here) we can reflect on programs, materials, the advent of summer reading, staff rolling bookcarts in a community parade, and a smattering of other scenes.

This is the library. This is a vibrant community place.

Collected and shared on a social site like Flickr (even if marketed in other ways*), photographs can demonstrate that. Libraries should show off their activities and share the evidence with the community. We should advertise the daily patches of life AND the whole quilt. Social sites and their tools can help us do both of those things.

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*The lone Sunday image in May celebrated the publication of a newspaper article featuring a 6×6 block from our Flickr images.