Today, James and I went to San Francisco for the fifth annual Future of Libraries (5.0) conference sponsored by the Pacific Library Partnership Staff Development Committee of the Greater Bay Area and the BayNet Library & Information Network. This conference highlights innovations in libraries, and the theme this year is “Libraries: The Recovery Engine on the Hard Times Train”. Speakers emphasized the ways libraries can work economically with local institutions and businesses to cement the idea that libraries can save them time and money and are worth funding.
Danielle Patrick Milam, the keynote speaker, is the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District Foundation Development Director, and also editor of Making Cities Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development. She made these points: lack of education (high dropout rates), unpredictable income, and changes in the culture (everything’s online now) are the drivers of the information economy and are responsible for bring more foot traffic and circulation to libraries. This is opening the door to an unparalleled opportnity to increase libaries’ visibility among local agencies and businesses. Most libraries are only using about 2% of their capacity to network with these agencies. We have much to offer, especially in cultural integration, early education, business intelligence. Libraries are a community’s “connective tissue”: light, airy, fragile-looking, but vital in the assets available to their constituents for free! Instead of looking at ROI (return on investment), libraries should be focused on ROA (return on assets), both of resources and staff, and market them aggressively.