New Model Library: Plan for positive change in the midst of challenges

Co-authors:  Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D. | Brittany BrannonBrooke Doyle | Brian Lavoie, Ph.D. 

When we did the research for the New Model Library: Pandemic Effects and Library Directions briefing, a term that came up often was “normal” (Is this change part of a new normal? When will this activity get back to normal?). While interesting, these questions don’t acknowledge that libraries are incredibly diverse in terms of culture, size, type, goals, and locations. And the term “normal” isn’t really helpful without additional context. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic is a singular, global upheaval that affects everyone who works at and uses libraries.

So how do we discuss the impact this global upheaval is having on a set of very different institutions and individuals and their plans for the future?

That was the major challenge we faced when considering how to best collect and analyze data about the effects of the pandemic on libraries. What we realized as we spent time with the findings, though, was that the changes described fell into three broad categories:

  • Work experiences
  • Collections experiences
  • Engagement experiences

The transformations described within each of these contexts affected one or more of these four areas of impact:

  • Agility
  • Collaboration
  • Virtualization
  • Space

Each section of the briefing highlights key findings at the intersection of these groupings. We believe they can be a useful way to think about the changes, successes, challenges, and opportunities at your library as you embark on strategic planning within and (eventually) beyond the pandemic.

Many of these paths may seem familiar

We began talking and writing about New Model Library directions prior to the pandemic. Major trends were influencing a profession-wide set of pressures, but their effects on libraries varied. Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC Vice President, Membership and Research, and Chief Strategist, has written about these, and early in the pandemic, leaned into the idea that COVID-19 might accelerate some of these directions.

The research that went into our briefing builds on those efforts, putting specific questions about pandemic effects and long-term strategy to 29 leaders working in 11 countries at libraries of different sizes and types. Our intention was to have these leaders cast some light on what they are envisioning for their libraries but do so in a way that helps you put New Model Library strategies in place. While many of the “not normal” things you’ve been doing are new, challenging, or overwhelming, some are strengthening your library in ways you want to maintain and others are truly temporary.

Download a #NewModelLibrary learner guide at #OCLCnext Click To Tweet

A guide for finding your New Model Library

Conversations with stakeholders in your library and community about what you’ve collectively experienced through the pandemic will no doubt help develop the shared context needed to find common ground and identify new ideas and possible directions. We’ve developed a learner guide with this objective in mind.

Download the learner guide (PDF)

Download the learner guide (Word)

We recommend having everyone who will be participating in conversations read the briefing first. Then complete the first part of the learner guide, which is about reflecting on changes made during the pandemic, new community needs and expectations, what’s going well and should continue, and what changes need to be made. Next, gather everyone for a larger discussion about experiences, priorities, and visions for a New Model Library. How much time you spend together will depend on what you want to accomplish. Our hope is that the conversation helps everyone home in on a set of long-term priorities and outline the preliminary steps needed to get started.

The learner guide provides a broad outline for these activities, but you can tailor it to your own local needs and contexts.

Moving forward

Despite the many sacrifices that have been made, we have all done the best we can to be responsive and supportive of each other and in some instances provided life-saving resources. Accepting and managing change is a big part of planning and leadership, but the changes brought about by the pandemic have been particularly difficult. Ultimately, the learner guide is meant to contextualize those changes and consider long-term plans with an understanding of the deep and lasting impacts of the pandemic. By meeting with others to take time and reflect on what library leaders reported and how your institution compares, you not only identify improvements that can be built upon, but also avoid taking actions that don’t fit your local context. In the process, you will develop the paths toward your New Model Library.