If Not for the Library
By: Sue Considine, Executive Director, Fayetteville Free Library
The Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) has helped to pave the way for Libraries and Librarians around the country to think differently about Libraries and Librarianship by asserting that the Public Library is uniquely and naturally positioned to be the place in every community to offer access to new, emerging and transformative technologies. The basic principle is that if we extend our mission of access beyond collections and programming to include access to technologies that provide community members with the opportunity to collaborate make and create, we will engage the community in ways that will allow them to transform and make their own lives better.
From my position as the FFL Team Facilitator (ED), I immediately understood the unique brilliance of this groundbreaking idea of extending access to this
technology as a natural evolution of services at the FFL. Although it is my responsibility to weigh the risks of pursuing any new direction we take at the FFL, my typical first inclination is usually, “why not, let’s give it a try”! In particular, I immediately connected the practical implications of community access to a 3D printer as a great hook for potential funders of our pending FFL Business Center plan; a place to connect entrepreneurs, small business owners and developers and big idea people with each other, with technologies, software, authoritative information and with professional FFL Librarians. I excitedly imagined a time when a would be inventor comes into the local library with an idea in her head, connects with a librarian to search for patents or to develop a business plan, assists with imagining and drawing the idea with 3D design software, saves it to a USB, loads it into a 3D printer, prints the object and then has a physical representation of a great big idea; ready to share, sell and move forward as she walks out her Community Library’s door. If not for the Library, this scenario is an impossibility for your typical community member.
Lauren Britton, then SU student, current FFL Transliteracy Development Director, enthusiastically and passionately pushed and pursued this idea with me, and then dove right in as a new team member to work with the existing extraordinary and talented team at the FFL to collaboratively imagine, develop, launch and grow this idea. The result of this collaborative team effort can be seen and felt today in every area of service throughout the FFL; from Take Apart Days, Maker Mondays, STEM and STEAM focused programming, Mission Lego, Steam Punk and Creation Clubs, to integrating IPADS into Early Literacy programming like FFL SMARTPLAY, to community volunteer led sewing groups utilizing the FFL sewing machines . Beyond my original excitement about the business and development opportunities this access could afford the community, the simple and profound idea that engaging in PLAY; Creating and Making in the Library, has lead to a startling surge in our ability to engage more fully and with new meaning with our community. Our experiences have helped us to understand how to listen hard to our community; to really hear and understand what they want to accomplish, what is important to them, what they care about, who they are and what they aspire to be.
We are constantly contacted to talk about our FFL experience with our 3D printers, with our FFL FabLab and FFL Digital Creation Lab and we are eager to share. We have the nuts and bolts answers here for you at http://fflib.org/learn/make/faqs-for-librarians.
We are looking forward to the day when our colleagues ask us better questions. We would like to share how by creating a culture in our library where the structure is flat, trust is valued, success is shared, innovation is relentless, curiosity is king and risk taking happens daily, we become more tuned in to our community’s aspirations and are better equipped to make informed decisions about our futures. We resist the idea that we must prove our relevance. We choose to be relevant. By taking the small leap of faith that was “we should create access to a 3D printer in a public library and allow the community to create content, let’s do it”; we learned the powerful lesson that If Not For The Library, and its unique position as an openly accessible and equalizing force, the community cannot find each other effectively in order to come together to do big (or small) things. Through this coming together, the Public Library becomes, as Dr. David Lankes, FFL super friend and brilliant SU Professor suggests, the Platform for the community to transform. To Make their own lives better.
Sue is a 2013 LJ Mover and Shaker and 2013 WCNY Women Who Make America honoree. Sue is immediate past President of NYLA PLS and current NYLA Councilor at Large. Sue is a 2015 GSLIS PhD candidate, Simmons College, Boston.
Sue will present at NYLA@ BEA at the Javits Center in NYC in May