Pierce County Library System is here for your enjoyment
In 2017, BERK worked with the Pierce County Library System (PCLS) to create its Strategic Framework, a durable structure to develop and communicate annual initiatives based on long-term goals and strategies. The Library's core services focus on three areas: learning, enjoyment, and community.
As a former librarian and present-day library consultant, I have to be honest: Announcing your intention to help people enjoy themselves is a bold move. In an era of reduced budgets and taxpayer fatigue, most public libraries don't want to say their purpose is fun. Not on paper anyway.
But by declaring fun as central to their role, PCLS shows foresight. In an increasingly digital world, people question the reason, if not the costs, for public libraries. But today, items that you can "check out" are only part of what libraries provide communities. Public libraries are shared community spaces where we interact, learn, and relax. Amazing things happen at libraries these days: punk rock aerobics, farm-plot food production, video visitation for kids of incarcerated parents! It's awesome, but if you're older than 35, it might look unfamiliar. And this is where the issue of fun and libraries gets sticky.
Often, people who love libraries view them through the lens of their own past. I'll use myself as an example. Growing up in Central Pennsylvania, the library was my lifeline out of there. The library housed things that let me dream of a life outside of my own. But today, there's the internet for that. A weird kid in a conservative town can access information on her phone that helps her know she's not alone.
The library isn't the sole gatekeeper of human knowledge anymore, and PCLS gets that. It's growing into something new, something fun, and that's how it should be. Because if we lean on nostalgia to shape today's public libraries, we'll make them obsolete.
PCLS used the Strategic Framework to develop its 2018 initiatives, and we couldn't be happier to see our work set the stage for fun stuff like MakerFest and Play 2 Learn. The BERK project team was Claire Miccio, Brian Murphy, and Jennifer Tippins.