NYLA Breakdown-Part One

Woot woot. That’s how I feel about the first NYLA conference I attended. As soon as I got there I immediately wished I had been able to sign up for more days (like all of them). Saturday was the last day of the conference so there were only three program slots on the schedule. The first session I attended was a double session so, I really only sat in on two programs but I still, a great day.

Today I’ll be sharing some of the haphazard notes I took during the first program and tomorrow I’ll fill you in on the tips and tricks I jotted down during the second session I attended. Some of this may be old news if you follow me on Twitter (and if you aren’t following me on Twitter, what are you waiting for?!?) but I couldn’t possible tweet everything I jotted down so….let’s get this recap started.

The double morning session I attended was called Design on a Dime and was hosted by Paul Mays from Butler Rowland Mays Architects, LLC and Gillian Thorpe from the Julia L. Butterfield Memorial Library.  I took three pages of notes. Here they are:

  • Invite local business leaders to the library for weekly talks. This gives them free advertising and helps the library reinforce it is part of the community. Also, those business leaders can act as experts who help you weed out parts of your collection. The example library had the local auto mechanic owner go through their car manuals and car repair books and tell them what could go and what they should consider getting instead.
  • Don’t give up on a project because you don’t know from where funding will come. Gillian mentioned that she couldn’t get anyone on board with funding a project she wanted to do until she secured a grant that would allow them to start funding the project. Once word spread she said people came out of the woodwork to offer funds, supplies, and other means of support.Sometimes, we just have to give people something they can attach themselves.
  • It can be tough to justify spending money on cosmetic issues in your library. But think of it this way, many libraries are struggling to prove they are still relevant in this day and age of technology. 30 year old carpet and ugly wallpaper from the 70’s does not say “current, modern, up-to-date and able to compete with Google.”
  • Rethink how you see spaces in your library and what they can be. We saw several examples of how spaces as small as 5’x8′ closets made a big impact in how the library looked just by re-imaging what they could be. One was turned into a copy room which cleared clutter from the circulation desk. Another closet had the doors removed and was turned into stroller parking and backpack storage off the children’s section which freed up floor space in the area.
  • Invest in better, more functional storage solutions to cut down on clutter and keep areas organized.
  • Don’t underestimate the simple power of paint. But please, don’t shy away from color. There is no law that says libraries have to be white and only white.
  • Instead of being the “no” police (no talking on cellphones, no food or drink in the library) find designated areas in your library where you’ll be comfortable allowing these activities to happen. Even opening a small part of the library to these “forbidden” activities can go a long way in how people think about the library.
  • Do you have a tutor or quiet study room? Think about renting it out to as a conference room to people who work from home.
  • Furniture on wheels can be your best friend. It makes it easy to shift furniture around and create new zones and spaces as needed.
  • And remember, your library is its own billboard and marketing tool. Keep it maintained so it sends the right message to the public.

Finally, here are the questions they recommend you ask yourself when thinking about any kind of redesign, big or small:

  1. What does your library need long term?
  2. What could the library do in the meantime?
  3. What would the goals of the short term improvement be?
  4. Who are the stakeholders? Staff? Community? Children (aka Future Stakeholders)?
  5. What expertise should be engaged?
  6. What are the other possible partnerships?
  7. What are the funding options? Referendum? Private funding? Grants?
  8. What are the phasing options? (You don’t have to do everything all at once).

Finally, they left us with this quote and piece of advice:

Just do it, even if you can’t do everything you wanted to do.” 

~Rosemary Cooper, Director of the Albert Wisner Public Library

Join me tomorrow when I walk you through part two, Teaching with Historical Documents.

See you then,



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