By Leah Sewell, Communications Editor, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
Have you ever been on the other line of a survey call? I haven’t, personally, but I’ve often wondered if I would be a willing participant. Perhaps in the midst of a particularly juicy book, soaking up one-on-one time with my fast-growing 9-year-old or closely watching a new recipe simmer, what would compel me to answer the phone, but also to converse with a researcher for an indeterminate spell? Well, for one thing, I’d pretty much drop everything and let dinner burn to gab with any stranger, on the phone or otherwise, when the topic is libraries.
You see, in my career as the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library’s Communication Editor, I am enamored with the “public” part of the public library. How does the public feel about our services? How will they react to a minor or a major change? How can we woo them, engage them, help them feel a part the community through literacy and learning, and subsequently change their lives for the better?
My library is focused on the public and the public good. It’s asking the right questions, discovering people’s goals and needs and assisting them so they can reach them. Ultimately, it’s about making a difference in the community by working with our fellow citizens to make their lives better. That’s a good chunk of the reason why we’re the Library Journal / Gale, a part Cengage Learning 2016 Library of the Year. We have our ears to the ground.
When the 2016 Pew Research Center report, Libraries at the Crossroads, was released in September 2015, I wondered about the people on the other end of those cell phones and land lines. Those individuals that Pew cites variously as “a share of Americans” or “a majority of Americans,” or “low-income Americans” are real individuals with busy lives, loved ones and their own dinners to prepare. Yet, they all sat a spell to gab about libraries.