June 1, 2015
Librarian Q&A: Anythink Library System
by Claire Kelley
On a recent trip to Colorado, I stopped by a number of libraries, including the Perl Mack Library branch, which happens to be part of the Anythink system. I asked Stacie Ledden, Director of Innovations and Brand Strategy to answer some questions about the Anythink libraries and the future of libraries in general.
Why are libraries important?
Libraries are truly one of the last democratic places in the country where everyone is on the same playing field. No matter your age, demographic or interests, everyone is welcome at the library. Librarians work to help people to be their best—whether that’s connecting them with important resources, providing opportunities to learn from one another, or supporting an individual’s ideas, passions and goals. Sometimes this just means lending an ear or sharing a smile, which can completely change someone’s day. Where else can people go to access endless amounts of information, have a trusted personal curator to help navigate all of that information and be in a place where they feel connected with their community? Libraries are defined by so much more than the materials housed in them; they are a symbol of opportunity. They are a place where anything is possible.
What is unique about your library?
At Anythink, everything that we do is focused on creating amazing experiences for our customers. This influences everything from how our spaces are designed to the types of interactive programming that we offer. It’s the reason we don’t charge overdue fines and have switched from the Dewey Decimal System to our own word-based categorization system, WordThink. It’s the reason we train our staff on hospitality. We believe that everyone is creative, and we support creativity in our staff so that they can then support the creativity of our customers. It helped us define our mission: We open doors for curious minds.
We have a strong, vibrant culture based on five core values:
Compassion for our customers and for each other
Passion for our product
Eagerness to learn
Optimistic attitude—we believe that everything is possible
Everyone is creative
Anythink’s unique approach to library service also defines and influences the Anythink brand. We work every day to ensure that people have an emotional connection to our brand and to the library. We want them to feel welcomed, connected, supported and inspired when they visit us in the branch, online or out in the community. Essentially, we want people to fall in love with Anythink and feel like the library is vital to their lives.
How do you think libraries will change in the future?
We’re already seeing this evolution in many organizations, but I think that libraries will continue to evolve as places where people aren’t just absorbing and discovering information, but also creating content themselves. Whether that’s as a business incubator, or a place where people can prototype, coming together to write a novel or even sewing a quilt together, the library will be a place where the community is creating content as much as they are searching for it. The library then becomes more of a participatory space—community members work alongside library staff to define their own experience. That could mean working on collaborative public art, providing input on the types of programs offered (maybe even helping to put on the program itself) to customers playing a more active role in tailoring the library’s collections. This type of participatory relationship ensures that the library continues to evolve as the community evolves, and that the community has ownership over the library and their experience. When libraries provide these types of opportunities for everyone to work side by side, the possibilities are endless.
Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.