We reached out to Colin Wilkins, Supervisor of Collection Development, The Public Library of Brookline to find out what makes their library program so unique and successful.
Q: Do you have a unique program or service that has been successful in your community?
This has been done in other communities, but we're really excited about the launch of our artist-in-residence program. We received a very generous grant from our Friends of the Library organization to fund the pilot year of the program. We will host the artist over a five-month period, and s/he will work closely with both library collections and staff to generate work that engages the Brookline community in ways the library has not attempted before. We hope the program expands the public's (and staff's) conception of what a public library is and has the potential to be.
Q: What do you wish your patrons knew that your library offers?
Public librarians were a little traumatized by the 2012 Pew Internet study that revealed a significant number of the patrons we serve did not know that the library loaned ebooks. I think awareness has improved since then, but we still have a lot of work to do in terms of marketing and outreach to both current patrons and non-users, especially as we begin to add non-traditional collections like cake pans, coloring books and wifi hotspots. People still walk into the library for the first time and ask how much it costs to become a member. Public goods are an increasingly rare concept in our culture, so sharing the fact that "free to all" still exists in our neighborhoods would be a good place to start.
Q: Where do you see librarianship in 10 years?
In ten years I want to see that public libraries have assumed a more recognized and central role in facilitating humane discourse, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting media literacy as a vital means of participating in our democracy. The way the media has evolved in recent years has allowed us to consume only the viewpoints that reinforce our opinions, and I don't see that situation improving without intervention. Public libraries have all of the tools to combat this trend, so I hope we feel empowered to step into the fray and nurture a more nuanced, inclusive conversation.
Q: What’s your proudest moment as a librarian?
I took a relatively circuitous path to librarianship, so I am most proud that the profession and I found each other. I love my job, I am proud to call myself a public servant, and I absolutely agree with the oft-mentioned sentiment that we are librarians 24 hours a day. I can count on half of one hand the days where I've woken up and not wanted to come to work, so I consider myself extremely lucky to be doing what I do.
Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever gotten in your book drop?
I'm sorely tempted to make something up here -- a rack of ribs! a bag of cash! Thankfully, our patrons play it pretty straight when returning materials after the library closes.
Q: Please finish this sentence: A library is…
.. a laboratory, a launchpad, and a haven.
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* Content originally from Primary Source, a monthly e-newsletter created for librarians like you.