The fourth Thread in The Atlas of New Librarianship deals with communities and the importance of gaining community involvement in the library and being involved in the community. The Philadelphia Free Library seems to embody the idea of creating topical centers within libraries through some of the programs they offer the community or communities they serve. Three examples of their efforts are provided in the text and they target the business community, the writing community, and the music community. They facilitated the conversations to develop these facilities by inviting professionals from each group for collaborative conversations.
Each community was interested in promoting different library offerings for their members. The business leaders developed the idea of the Entrepreneurium in their discussion and emphasized the importance of the library for start-ups and small businesses. They saw the role of the library as connecting members to mentors, offering technical services and seminars, and providing conference rooms to connect them with a wider community. The writers wanted to develop a more creative space with an open collection of their works. They didn’t want anyone critiquing them and excluding their writings. They saw the role of the library as providing them the space where they could work and come together socially to foster conversation. The musicians, on the other hand, wanted a stage where they could perform together or for an audience. They also wanted a collection, a space where their performed works would be filed and share with other community members. The librarians part was to improve music literacy by offering classes in music appreciation.
The NOPL Cicero library hosts Library Farm, a community space where members can plant and grown vegetables. The librarians there worked with the community in a need that they could fill to increase literacy in this topic.
“This library service [the farm] would aim to educate, collecting a usable set of materials where roots and vegetables are considered kinds of public documents. It considers the processes involved in growing food along with the food itself to be information. It assumes Michael Buckland’s conception of the thingness of information, and catalogs the actual stuff that aims to convey knowledge or understanding. The documents in this library farm would partially sustain members of the community, physically, socially, and economically.” (http://infospace.ischool.syr.edu/2010/09/30/library-farm/)
Based on this quote, the idea of an artifact or a collection is only limited by what the community determines it needs. The library is the great public forum in any community. It is up to us as librarians to bring diverse groups together to facilitate conversations aimed at improving the community and putting those plans into actions.