Planning to be community catalysts

Debbie Schachter

nextbanner_libraryfuturesLike many institutions, my university kicked off a 2030 “visioning process” last year and I was asked to present on how the library fits in. Activities like that are often interesting, sometimes fun, and always a bit daunting. Knowing that any one person’s vision for the future is going to be limited, my first thought was, “I need to start talking to some colleagues.”

The timing for that need was remarkable, because the 2018 OCLC Americas Regional Council (ARC) conference was just around the corner. I was able to attend sessions in Chicago with a “visioning mindset” and use the conference to discuss ideas with great colleagues, and even chat with OCLC researchers about related work.

That’s one of the great benefits of our OCLC community—the opportunity to connect with fellow leaders and share the knowledge and insights that help us better prepare for our libraries’ best future.

And that’s exactly the theme for this year’s Library Futures regional council meetings.

Focus on the future through the lens of community

I’m really excited about this year’s theme of “Community Catalysts.” Libraries are often involved with individuals and groups at a point where they’re looking to make change happen. Again and again, we hear about libraries stepping in to help assess and address important challenges facing the communities they serve. In academic libraries, that often takes the form of working with administrators and faculty to improve student outcomes in new and surprising ways. And we’ve seen public libraries address challenges as diverse as the opioid crisis, affordable housing, preschool readiness, and job training.

This is a powerful way to leverage our strengths. At our OCLC Library Futures conferences—three of them, to be held in Phoenix, Singapore, and Vienna—we’ll explore the ways that “community” continues to be the answer to so many of our most pressing challenges. And we’ll examine how a catalyst mindset can be a great way to plan for the future.

Chart a path that invites participation

There’s so much to learn from each other and so many great examples of community building, both within the library environment and in other professions. This year, we’ve identified four areas that we’ll focus on that apply the “community catalyst” lens to the work we all do. At the conference, we’ll discuss how to:

  • Build powerful networks that help libraries achieve more, through unique collaborations and connections. In many cases, the library may not have all resources needed to address an issue. But we can be at the center of efforts to bring those necessary elements together. We can leverage existing library networks and build new and creative partnerships that help achieve our long-term goals.
  • Lead with technology and innovate with confidence, while sparking others’ creativity. Many of our libraries are incubators for new technology, increasing access and opportunity. And we adopt new technology behind the scenes, too, to work more efficiently and effectively. As confident, experienced early adopters, we can leverage our expertise in ways that help others get to a connected future more quickly, too.
  • Create measurable, community-wide impact. How do we leverage all that we do across entire businesses, industries, funding bodies, and groups? We can look at the metrics that are important to the people we serve and help them “move the needle.” When we think about the future of libraries, we do as part of a larger vision about where the community wants to go.
  • Exceed user expectations by meeting evolving needs. Change is constant and so our solutions need to be flexible and future-focused. Library users are now accustomed to a wide range of information services provided across all aspects of their lives, both online and off. With a user-first mindset, we can build a future that differentiates libraries based on our unique strengths.

I hope you’ll join us at the regional conference nearest you. Our strategic discussions are created especially for current and emerging leaders, but we welcome all staff members from OCLC member libraries to any (or all!) of the events.

Libraries are already catalysts for our communities in so many ways. I look forward to finding out about how you’re leveraging those strengths as you plan for the future. And I want to explore how we, as OCLC members, can help transform our own organization to better serve the wider community of library users around the world, both today and into the future.

Learn more and register: