Last fall (Oct. 9, 2014), I gave the keynote at the Polaris Users Group meeting in Liverpool, NY. I am finally posting my keynote text (as written) here in four blog posts - four movements. Below is Movement 2.
By the way, I've added photos to these posts; however, I did not use any images or projected presentation in October.
Last week, Van Jones - who is one of the hosts of CNN's Crossfire - spoke at Syracuse University and talked about how we treat people as being disposable. All of those people working at UPS are disposable. The job requires no real skill and when one person leaves, another can take easily take his or her place. I think being disposable is one way "some" think of people, who are different than them. You are not like me, so you can go away. You do not need to exist.
After Ferguson...and Santa Rosa, where a man was shot in a store after purchasing a BB gun...and after Columbia, SC...where a man was shot reaching for his driver's license...it feels like more people are being deemed as disposable. And I wonder how we - libraries and librarians - can change that?
First of all, when we are disposable, people see you as being interchangeable with someone else OR maybe that you have no discernible value. Libraries - all libraries - are part of the American educational system. Outside of our K-16 schools, libraries are THE place where people go to get educated. The place. But that is if people can actually get to a library and if they are allowed to use the library.
Some of those that are being left behind don't have good transportation. Without good transportation, you can't get to the library when you need or want to. Without good transportation, you may not be able to return books on time. And if you can't return books on time, your library privileges may be suspended. By the way, transportation is also an issue when it comes to finding or keeping a job. A manager at an East Syracuse hotel once said that he had people, who wanted to work for him, but that the buses didn't come out to that area when people needed to get to work. He tried to coordinate other transportation with mixed success.
I want to stick with that example for a moment, because I think there are some lessons or ideas that we can take from it.
First, should we turn how we deliver services completely on its head? Rather than asking people to come to the library, can we take our services and resources to them? Perhaps this a variation on the bookmobile, which would give people access to both physical and digital resources.
Perhaps this is setting up mini-libraries out in the community. I know that immediately creates questions about cost, resources, and staffing...but maybe we need to take a leap of faith and try it, and then assess the impact.
Perhaps this means creating a service that is not based on "lending". Could libraries help people own books, for example? This might be something that the library did in conjunction with another community organization. What if the library - working with other community groups - helped every child to own one new book a year? That would be one way of putting books in the hands of children and could help families to have books to lend to each other. Being able to lend your own book is a nice feeling, and a feeling that everyone should have.
Could the library take its training classes out into the community? I know that would create many hassles...but would it help people get the training that they need and perhaps lift them up from being or feeling disposable?
Is there a way of bringing devices into our neighborhoods?
Truly I think we need to act innovatively, if we want to have an impact on the digital literacy and the lives of our community members. We can't sit back and wait for them to come to us for the services that we offer. We need to go to them and deliver the services that they need.