By: Ellen Fisher
November 11, 2014
When faced with an economic downturn different librarians are affected in different ways. Public and academic librarians find themselves faced with increased use and decreased funding. Public librarians have to get creative with programming and provide more job-finding services to meet the demands of patrons. School librarians are fighting for their jobs and have to make it known just how valuable they are. These circumstances allow librarians of all types to move the library in new directions using new technologies to meet user needs.
Public libraries play an important role in the community during times of recession. Users come to the library for free entertainment and job training skills. Additionally, libraries provide a safe place for teenagers to hang out when home internet is no longer an option for their family. Many users are just looking for a way to get out of the house and libraries provide an abundance of free entertainment. With the loss of funding, librarians are faced with decisions about how to best allocate resources. Reducing hours of operations, cutting staff, and decreased funding for books are just a few of the areas that can be affected. And all these solutions are difficult to put into place because in the end, they hurt the users in a time when the library is most needed.
School librarians are fighting for their jobs. Many schools see the librarian as dispensable. Teachers can take over in classroom instruction and this saves school districts money. Many school librarians are required to oversee various libraries across their district, which involves instructing various age groups with not enough time and resources. Being able to prove their worth to the school district and the children is key for school librarians to keep their job. In a 2012 article, Michelle Luhtalg offers steps for school librarians to promote their achievements to anyone who will listen. She suggests to start by creating a baseline for measuring success. This can be done by documenting the library program and what students are learning. The next step is to set realistic goals for the library. A good way to do this is by setting incremental goals for growth. Keeping track of the classes visited, circulation statistics, professional development programs, and collection analysis statistics and database usage are areas where small goals can be set to work on increases. It is also important for school librarians to work with teachers on meeting set goals. Learning which skills are most important for students to learn will give school librarians a good map of ways to increase learner participation. Lastly, using web 2.0 tools gives school librarians a way to show achievements in student learning. Luthalg says online communication expands instructional reach and opportunities to assess learning. She also stresses the importance of publishing findings about impact, saying this is what “saves jobs.”
In the case of academic librarians, proving their value to the institution is important like it is for school librarians. In a 2013 article, Geoffrey Little writes about the impact lost funding takes on academic libraries. Librarians have to take the initiative to reach out to other departments to make skills and usefulness of the library known. Partnering with faculty on research projects, grant applications, and data management can be beneficial to both the librarian and faculty. Another way librarians can reach out is by surveying students about adapting the library into a more useful space. He says increasing electronic resources and collaboration are ways librarians can best deal with a loss of funding.
Technology is the way this can all be achieved. Public librarians offer computer training classes to users of all ages. They can reach out to communities using free social media websites. Technology offers the greatest advantages to school librarians. Part of their job is to teach these tools to school-aged children. School librarians can prove their worth to the community and school districts by creating a strong web presence that involves the students in the creation process. Proof of improved computer skills, learned technologies, and community outreach are all ways that school librarians can secure their jobs for the future.
Little, Geoffrey. “Necessity as the Mother of Invention: Library Technology in the New Economy”. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v40, 2014, p43-44.
Luhtalg, Michelle. “Rocking Your Library World: Strategies for Success in a Tough Economy. Knowledge Quest, v40 n3, Jan 2010 p14-19.