Community ownership

This morning I got a call from my mum, saying she had seen on the news that there had been a fire at my kids’ school. A bit of quick research on my part and we discovered that overnight, a fire had severely damaged the new gym. The gym has taken 18 months to build, was 6 months late and handover was going to be Monday. The gym was a joint use facility, with the school using it during the day and local Council using it for basketball comps and other events after hours.

We are all a bit distressed about it. From what I could see of the building this morning, at least half of the building has fire and/or water damage from floor to ceiling. The one thing that I quickly picked up, from both conversations around the school and then from talking with people at the shopping centre next door, was a sense of community ownership. This event hasn’t happened to an objective building, it has happened to a community. People who have no vested interest in the school, but who just live or work locally, are just as outraged as those of us who do. Its gratifying to experience that sort of camaraderie.

Which got me thinking about this in relation to the things I have blogged about in recent days, as part of Blog Every Day of June.

Do our communities have that same sense of ownership of our libraries?

Do our communities actually see the library as their own, or do they see it as being owned by the library service and the library staff that work there? I am sure that there are many users who do see it as their library, but how many?

I think of it in relation to all the library closures overseas in the US and the UK. Do our communities feel the ownership enough to fight for us, if we were threatened with the same closures? I know they have fought and won in the fight to build new libraries, would they fight to save the old ones.

I’d like to think they would. But we have to make sure that we continue to give them something worth fighting for. Do what we do well, connections, in whatever form that takes.

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    • Bronwyn on June 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I think your line of thought is good – as public librarians we would want the community to be outraged if the library was hurt in anyway – but we need to ensure that our community values their library. Are we giving the community a library worth valuing?

  1. That is the question and probably one we grapple with on an ongoing basis. Thanks for the comment!

    • alison on June 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I believe that making our statistics advocate for our value in the community (and making sure that there is value) is vital, and something we’re looking at with the new Performance Management Framework group
    http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/info/publib/networks/pmf.
    Input is being sought now on the key questions http://bit.ly/l2xGjo (p. 3).
    How should we measure the impact of library services on the community?
    And very sorry to hear about your children’s school gym too. That is sad news.

  2. You’re right Alison and I have been planning to check out the interesting work that SLQ is doing on performance management. So thanks for the reminder and for your good thoughts.

  1. […] week Michelle on Connecting Librarian asked the question Do our communities feel the ownership enough to fight for us, if we were […]

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