Shiny Object Syndrome

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time than usual talking to staff and to patrons of Monroe County libraries. Everyone seems to be working on or thinking about strategic planning. Some libraries are hiring new Directors, some are planning new buildings. All are thinking about what their patrons want and need.

Conversations have been wide ranging, and many refer to things that are happening in other communities. Some of the common questions I am hearing include:

  • Should I buy a 3-D printer? My answer to this is always maybe, IF you think it has practical applications in your library and your community, and you can afford one. You can get a pretty nifty little model for a reasonable price, but I often wonder about the practical application. Is this kind of equipment a fad? Will your 3-d printer succumb to “shiny object syndrome” and sit unused and dusty in a couple years (months) after the whiz-bang-gee-that’s-cool wears off? I briefly glanced at an article somewhere in recent days that seemed to focus on using a 3-d printer to bring children’s drawings to life. If that is possible, what an amazing application of that technology in a library. Can you imagine being a 6 year old with an awesome drawing of a super-hero, taking that drawing to the library and going home with an honest-to-god 3-d model of that piece of imagination?
  • Should my library develop a makerspace? Hello! most libraries already *are* makerspaces. Does your library offer programs or classes where people make things? If so, you’re already on your way. Think about how to cultivate that creativity inside and outside the library. What tools do you need? Pick a focus. Maybe you have staff who are experienced quilters, or painters, or potters. What’s stopping you from allowing them to use their skills as part of the jobs? Do you have collections of how-to books? Find a way to turn those collections into real life maker sessions.

Many of the other questions I’m hearing revolve around digital content and ebooks, but THAT is a whole other post. Suffice to say that “print is dead” is a big ole MYTH.

My common response to nearly every question is, talk to your community. Talk to your staff and to your patrons. They will tell you where you should focus time, effort and money.

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