Looking Beyond the Library

Stuck in a Bubble?

So often working in a library, I feel like we’re stuck in the bubble that is the “library world”. While there are many aspects that are “special” to libraries or information/collection based organizations, so many aspects of librarianship are not: customer service, teaching, marketing/communications, space usage/design, web and IT services, etc. Yet for whatever reason, I find so many that are reluctant or never think to look outside the little bubble that we live in. Working in academic libraries, at least many people will think to expand into the higher ed world sometimes, but then stop there.

Our Users

The people we serve do not live in a bubble either, so why do we so infrequently think about how their experiences outside of the library or school affect the way they interact with us? Mita just posted today on this very topic in terms of user experience on how users will have an easier time if we design using elements they encounter in their daily lives.

The Competition

Somewhat recently, a bunch of us had a discussion about retaining good staff. Particularly in more specialized areas like library IT, we are competing with a much larger world: namely the IT world. How can we hope to retain good systems people if we don’t even provide a water cooler (let alone coffee)? (Not to mention the effect on productivity.) Some of the changes to help keep staff don’t even need to cost anything, but revolve more around work culture and communication. If we want staff to provide quality material that will help our users, we need to be able to retain the quality people that come in.


When I volunteered at KidsJam last year, Toronto Public Library had a presence there, and it was great! How often do you see a library at a tech event? I think this is a great example of how libraries can collaborate with those outside of the library world.

On a complete different note, while sometimes it’s true that those outside of the libraries don’t understand libraries, I have found a lot of great conference speakers come from outside of the library.


Excuse the rambliness of this post, but I think the point is that we need to look beyond the library when considering our projects, our staff, and our users. Of course, don’t forget about what’s going on in your own library while doing it.

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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