Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Down Wit OPL, Ya You Know Me!

While trying to find a picture for this post, I stumbled on one by someone I know, so I stopped there.

What's OPL? Other People's Libraries, and I've been in a couple of them lately. We're working on a kindness audit in my library right now (an idea I got from Joe Hardenbrook), and my reference librarian came up with the idea of comparing our space to the public library in town using those means. Then, as part of my participation in the College Library Directors' Mentor Program, I finally got a chance to visit my mentor's library. Mostly I talked with her staff and a few colleagues, but we did spend some time touring the building.

Once I got past the jealousy that both visits induced in me (well-staffed, beautifully lit, gorgeously furnished libraries, both of them), I took lots of notes. The thing is, I always learn so much when I visit other libraries - even if it's in the category of "What Not To Do." Sometimes when I go visiting, I have a specific agenda, as when I was working on a wayfinding plan back at my last library. Usually, though, it's more of a general perusal. Even when a visit falls into the second category, I try to look at specific things:

  • Staff
    • How are people dressed? Staff, student workers, etc.
    • Does the staff make eye contact with patrons when appropriate? Does the staff smile?
    • Are staff interacting with patrons? If so, in what capacities?
  • Collections
    • Where are the new books?
    • How is the collection organized?
    • What does it look like? Do I get a feel of old and musty? New and shiny? Some mixture?
  • Furniture
    • Is there graffiti on furniture?
    • How out of date/up to date is the style?
    • What kinds of furniture are provided?
  • Space
    • Is there a variety of spaces for patrons? (Small study rooms, large study rooms; reading nooks; tables; study carrels.)
    • What is the color scheme?
    • What kind of art?
  • Signage
    • Is there lots of jargon on the signs?
    • What kinds of fonts and colors are used? (And is it ADA compliant?)
    • Are there maps available?

I also look for how ADA compliant and otherwise accessible libraries are even beyond the signage, but that's a post unto itself. I know lots of MLIS programs require students to visit multiple libraries as part of their course of study, but that visiting shouldn't stop just because you graduated. Nothing is an exact substitute for an in person visit, but if you don't have other libraries nearby, you can always try to visit virtually. When you are in the same library all the time, you can forget that there are other ways of librarianing. Even if you don't have the budget that your destination libraries have, you can still get ideas. 

So, you down wit OPL? If so, how do you approach it?

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