Loriene Roy - Interview on the Future of Libraries

Loriene Roy is the president of the American Library Association. She is the Professor of the School of Information in the University of Texas at Austin, and together with her students runs a national reading club for Native American children. She also directs a scholarship program encouraging Native American librarianship.

But let's pretend for a minute that you were not involved in libraries. How do you personally use the library? How do you search for and access information in general?

I gather information in various ways. I read several paper newspapers daily (Austin American Statesman, Daily Texan), online newspapers (Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal, New Zealand Herald), other publications (e.g., Chronicle of Higher Education), listen to CSpan.org, NPR, subscribe to various news alerts and electronic lists, (LISNEWS--blog highlights, H-AmerInd), listen to spoken word and music video, watch TV, and absorb information from others and the ether.

As president of the ALA, what are issues and initiatives are you planning to take on and undertake?

Several task forces are working with me to produce some tangible expressions of three areas of concern: Workplace Wellness, Supporting LIS Education Through Practice, and Circle of Literacy.

The Workplace Wellness initiative is planning a wellness fair to take place at the 2008 ALA Annual conference along with an environmental scan to be available on National Library Workers Day 2008.

The Supporting LIS Education group is working on a book on this topic and a national database of capstone/field work/service learning opportunities.

The Circle of Literacy task force is gathering examples of how libraries provide services for immigrants, those incarcerated, and indigenous peoples. We are planning a Gathering of Readers to highlight indigenous children's reading and culture.

You co-wrote a paper which quoted Charles Knowles Bolton at the end of the 19th century, saying, "No librarian can enter into the improvement of the social and intellectual life of the community without gaining strength himself." In the context of technology taking a major role in the cataloging of knowledge, and librarians trying to figure out how they can stay relevant now and in the future, how does community involvement help the librarian?

Libraries are still social institutions and can be centrally positioned to assist their communities, especially those who are often ignored, overlooked, or under-included. The recently released report, The State of American Libraries, provides evidence that use of libraries is increasing over time. Libraries still provide the loyal patron with a good book to read, but also provide innovative services and help provide access to the world's resource through technology.

How is technology and Library 2.0 changing librarians' roles?

Librarians are using technology to extend their traditional roles in outreach. They are providing social spaces, including physical space and virtual/electronic spaces. Library 2.0 provides means for librarians to be responsive to patrons in ways that are supportive of patron patterns of communication---from IM, chat, co-browsing, use of social networking, and electronic push of information--to use just a few examples.

What would you say is the single most important technology to the future of libraries?

Social networking opportunities along with gaming provide interesting formats of responding to patrons and forming communities of concern and interest.

What can librarians today do to "market" their libraries, and reinforce the relevance of libraries in local communities today?

I've just co-written several articles on marketing with Elizabeth Kennedy Hallmark and Laura Schwartz. You'll find these pieces in the February 2007 issue of College & Research Library News and the Spring 2007 issue of Texas Library Journal. These pieces provide advice on developing and implementing a marketing plan. There are innumerable ways to develop and implement marketing efforts from hosting open-houses, developing branded slogans or messages, to developing strategies for reminding patrons that the library exists as the destination.

Sometimes libraries have no budget to market themselves. What are some free or inexpensive ways for librarians to market their profession, and libraries?

One of my former students, Beth Hallmark, was my campaign manager during last year's ALA Presidential campaign. We learned that some of the most effective approaches to communicate with ALA members were indeed free or low cost. This included:

1. Having a message. Our campaign theme was "Celebrating Community, Collaboration, and Culture.
2. Using the personal touch--inviting communication via email, phone, blog.
3. Personalizing contact. We used Evite for invitations. People loved reading others' messages.
4. Inviting volunteers. Greg Argo - another student - created our website following a very creative approach. Students added streaming video clips. One of my sisters contributed images.
5. We wrote many pieces for a variety of journals. And I welcomed other ways to communicate, including serving as guest speaker in online LIS classes and serving as the host for a national radio call-in program (Native America calling).

Other ideas might include:

1. Organizing and staffing booths at community events.
2. Inviting patrons to also share communication about their use of library resources.
3. Provide local media with good examples of what your library is doing.
4. Prepare banner articles on library events.
5. Learn from professional marketing people. (Beth Hallmark - the student who ran my campaign - was marketing editor for our Texas Department of Agriculture).
6. Take a lot of images for websites.
7. Submit information about your library to contests and competitions, such as the John Cotton Dana Award.
8. Connect with prepared marketing information--such as the Campaign for America's Libraries (ALA) and statewide campaigns such as the Texas Library Association's 65 Ways to Love Your Library.

Of course, these efforts all come with a price, largely the cost of staff time to implement.

In your opinion, what are the most useful features of libraries today?

Libraries are versatile, surprising, and adaptable institutions. I enjoy seeing the range of services they provide and the many new changes in architecture.

What would you say are the most useless features of libraries today, and what can libraries do to eliminate them?

Libraries that aren't responsive to community needs. For example, I do not understand the rationale of not purchasing Spanish-language material for patrons who read Spanish.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with us, if you would like to learn more, visit Loriene Roy's platform page, or follow her blog, Loriene Roy.

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