Yesterday, a colleague and I visited the library at the Art Institute of California, Sacramento campus. The object was to register students for Sacramento Public Library cards, so we brought the laptop with the VPN and MilCirc, some promotional materials and shiny new library cards.
We spent a few hours there, meeting students and faculty, and learning about the library from the librarian. I saw my professional life up to now pass in review. The students putting in shifts reminded me of myself doing the same at my high school library (in exchange for tuition assistance). The brand-new books and empty shelves reminded me of the time I had to put the Women’s Community Correctional Facility library together, only at that time, each book came with a full set of catalog cards that had to be filed, too. The small size of the library and staff reminded me of the years I spent as The Librarian at The Library on Moloka’i, where any librarian passing through got the grand tour in exchange for a few minutes of professional-level dialogue. It also reminded me of the months I spent as a very part-time sub at the Cosumnes River Community College Library, where teachers and students work closely together with library staff to support the learning environment.
I guess you don’t get to be my age without having been around the block once or twice. Whenever I start to think about resting on my laurels, I remember how much it takes just to deliver basic library service, without the bells and whistles of wi-fi and virtual everything. The questions now being debated among us are, “What constitutes basic library service, and how many staff and what kind of collection is required to deliver it? And if you’re lucky enough to be able to think about service beyond the basics, what should that look like?”