Build on strengths when responding to a crisis

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As the REALM project (REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums) continues to gather and adapt science-based information to inform local decision making by libraries, archives, and museums, it’s been essential to listen to the real-world experiences at these institutions. These perspectives ensure that the information is relevant to the operations and services of the field. In a collection of nine interviews, leaders of libraries, museums, and member associations describe how they leveraged their institutions’ core strengths and drew upon trusted partners to navigate the crisis, helping to protect the health and well-being of staff and community members. These interviews help identify common ground among institutions in their response to a global crisis and spotlight opportunities for local partnerships between different types of cultural heritage institutions that can strengthen resources and local impact.

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Connecting your library’s actions to global challenges: How do you stand up?

Working alongside library leaders from around the world, I’ve realized there is an interesting paradox in terms of organizational goals. While libraries around the world serve unique and diverse communities, at the core of their work, they share very similar visions and principles. Libraries similarly, are also able to adjust strategy and tactics very specifically to their users’ needs while keeping an eye on global interests. Finding ways to link these two levels—global interests and local conditions—can be very rewarding—and sometimes complicated.

For the past year, I have worked with OCLC Global Council and OCLC Research to explore such a link. In the fall of 2019, we began focusing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to determine how libraries can use the goals as a framework to partner, both with each other and outside organizations, to better address global sustainability efforts.

Then COVID-19 struck. And libraries worldwide had an entirely new set of shared challenges to address locally.

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Lessons learned from the OCLC Community Center during the pandemic

When I wrote about the OCLC Community Center’s fifth anniversary last year, I thought we were all getting a handle on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We knew things weren’t over yet, but we also weren’t expecting to spend the next 12 months working from home, socially distancing, wearing masks in public, missing lunches and meetings and conferences, and so much more. While nothing replaces those in-person interactions, I’ve been amazed at how virtual engagement and connections have grown and deepened. As a result, we’ve all learned many valuable lessons about creating online community that will have lasting impact.

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Women in technology: We are all stakeholders

Since its inception in 2017, OCLC’s DevConnect series has been focused on library technology. Over the years, we’ve shared presentations that focus on the things that drive library innovation—specific APIs, projects, and code. However, the team that produces the DevConnect series is co-ed, and this year we wanted to focus on the people who move the field forward.

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Four ways to avoid the “transition trap” in your strategic planning

Even well-developed, regularly updated strategic plans are subject to short-term crises and changes in the environment. For the last 18 months, we’ve seen that take place as the world and libraries reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. But beyond keeping day-to-day activities going, library leaders have also been considering how to manage the pandemic’s effects on strategic, long-range issues. Recent tactical decisions need to be balanced against longer-term strategic aims.

It’s important, as we move further into a post-pandemic planning mode, not to confuse tactical, transitional plans with long-term, transformational strategy.

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Let’s talk race: The power of conversations

For many people, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has had great personal importance since its origins in 2013—especially in the past year. But in South Carolina, where I work as Manager of the Richland Library Edgewood, this important issue took on even greater local consequence with the murder of Walter Scott in North Charleston and the Charleston church shooting in 2015.

Many people were angry, confused, and frightened. There was a need for reliable news and information and for constructive local discussions. As a community-driven organization, we saw this as a humanitarian crisis, and so we asked, “How can the library help our community heal?”

Our answer was, “Let’s talk race”—a simple but powerful set of programs open to anyone in the community. We’ve now facilitated more than 90 conversations with 4,000+ community members from all backgrounds on a variety of topics explicitly convened to discuss race, social justice, and inequality.

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Getting smarter

Imagine sending an unexpected video call invite to ten colleagues at different organizations two years ago. My guess is that most would have been surprised, some annoyed. But after a year of working remotely, the response would be much different. And even as we transition back to working in person, that option will be one used more often going forward. Because in many circumstances, it’s simply a smarter choice.

So, why didn’t we make that choice before?

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Look both inside and outside your library for post-pandemic community engagement surprises

When our in-person services were put on hold during the start of the pandemic, some people—both library users and even some staff—thought our role in the community might diminish for a time. I didn’t. I knew that our community needed us now more than ever and we couldn’t fail or disappoint them. We, the library, had to get busy, because during challenging times, libraries step up.

Our staff at Greensboro Public Library definitely did. And I am sure that you did, too. The trick, right now, is to make sure that as we transition out of a pandemic mindset, we carefully consider what parts of our expanded role we choose to retain.

My suggestion? Keep seeking out surprises.

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We persevere through challenges when we rely on each other

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a year since the pandemic turned our lives upside down. And despite shutdowns and closures, libraries still found incredible ways to serve their communities. You adjusted to conditions and responded to critical information needs. You pivoted to deliver content and programs digitally and to support online learning.

My colleagues and I at OCLC have been proud to support you. We prioritized product investments, research, and development opportunities that helped respond to new challenges. As a member-driven organization, that’s what we do—empower libraries to meet changing needs.

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