View from the Spare Room: A Look Back (and Ahead)

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Whelp (as we say here in Minnesota as a precursor to a statement of finality), we’ve reached the end of a very long 2020. I’ve already seen articles calling it “the lost year,” and I don’t think that’s accurate. We may have missed concerts, State Fairs, vacations, all those opportunities to be a stranger among strangers, but it has been a remarkable year. We’ve seen focus shift away from the self in a way that seems real and sustainable. A lot of people have been doing a lot of hard work to improve their communities this year, in the face of overwhelming odds.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like library work is part of this shift. In the midst of a pandemic and calls for social change, the breadth of what libraries do has been raised up. As The Friends made the case in our advocacy work this year, libraries are at the heart of equitable education, community safety, employment, and much more. I have learned a lot since I started writing this newsletter about all the ways in which libraries are essential and serve their communities.  

Library Strategies has worked across the spectrum of our skills this year, from community assessment to capital campaign feasibility. We would like to take a moment to highlight just a few of the partnerships we are proud of and have learned a lot from this year:

Gloucester, MA engaged in deep community investment to improve their facilities and become the innovative hub that can provide the comfortable, multi-use space the library patrons need.

We are currently engaged in Evanston, IL to do a strategic plan involving intensive equity, access, and inclusion reporting. Though this project is ongoing, we are already learning a lot through their community engagement work.

Our partnership with MELSA (Metropolitan Library Service Agency) continued the excellent Club Book program, bringing nationally known authors to eight Twin Cities Metro area libraries, making the shift to a virtual environment almost immediately in the spring of 2020.

When the pandemic hit, we were working with Meridian, ID and Council Bluffs, IA. Both locations were willing to be flexible with their strategic planning processes. With them, we fine-tuned remote work strategies that will be replicable and advantageous for future partners.

We are excited for what the coming year will bring and for the plans we already have in place. The IMLS Framing the Future project with the Montana State Library and the consortium of Western states will bring us valuable perspectives that will be beneficial to small and rural libraries across the country. At the same time, we’ll be working with several urban library systems that are akin to our home ecosystem in Saint Paul. In the year ahead, more libraries will be able to move forward, rebuilding despite expected – and unexpected – challenges. Whatever challenges you’re facing, we look forward to facing them together and learning alongside you.

I will not tempt fate with any kind of bravado about 2021. I may never treat the turning of the year like it is any kind of reset ever again. I think it is best, at this point, to just leave the door open.

Thank you, partners and Library World. Happy New Year.

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