Recently, our joint academic/public library was investigated by a researcher looking at the difficulties involved in having two different organisational cultures working along side each other. No doubt the paper will be published and you will all get to read about it.
Yesterday I read through the copy given to us and came away feeling rather saddened. The approach taken (for valid reasons) was limited to the negative aspects of a joint library culture. There is a decent amount of literature written from this angle and clearly there are negative issues with joint library situation. As an optimist however, I’d like to redress the balance and say a few words about the positive side of having a joint library.
In our situation, the biggest group who benefit from the joint library are the students. As long as they have a library card for both libraries, they have access to the entire collection of each library.
Although we do not have a joint approach to collection development, the nature of the courses taught at this campus means there is a larger range of resources available. Public library resources provide a slightly different approach to the more academic resources we provide and this is particularly useful for our social practice and nursing students. The Maori collection of the public library is much larger than ours and is a great resource. The genealogy resources provided by our public library partner enable our community skills students to research their whakapapa as part of an assignment they are required to complete.
The ability to study in the different spaces provided by the joint library is a clear advantage for the diversity of student working style. The whole building is wireless, so the laptops we lend to students can be used on all three levels. Each floor has it’s own characteristic environment. For example, the tables on level 3 mean students who work in groups can collaborate together creating a space where a working buzz is acceptable behaviour. Level 2 is quieter and more suited to students who like to work individually. Level 1 has a more playful feel to it, and can be useful for students who have small children with them for short periods of time as they can stay together. Whether they get any work done is debatable as anyone who has small children can attest!
Public library patrons do not benefit so easily from having access to both collections as they are unable to borrow items belonging to us. They do however use the material in the library. We have noticed that students from other institutions who do not have a large library or a presence in this area are frequent visitors and users of the more academic resources we provide. Public library patrons with queries on health conditions do consult the nursing collection and photocopy small sections. School students who need something a little deeper than the resources provided by their school library use our material too.
The complementary expertise of the staff from each partner is a great advantage both for library patrons and for the staff themselves. I am well aware that my knowledge of things like local body information and local history is weak, but I know the staff from the public library are experts and have no problem handing over a patron into their capable hands. Conversely, I have every confidence in my own ability to help somebody find scholarly articles for their assignment or a school child looking for books on scientists in Antarctica. The variety of queries received at the information desk is something I consider to one of the perks of my job.
Another perk I really like is being able to pop downstairs and pick up my fiction reading or grab a magazine as I see it on display.
The differences between each partner’s organisational culture can actually be quite refreshing. Taking a break from your own team and interacting with your neighbour can provide a welcome opportunity to relax and chat.
If the joint library were ever dissolved I would miss these things.
The title of this post popped into my head because of the joint library moniker, but I also like the picture of our library as a body. Each member of the body has it’s own contribution to the working of the whole. We may not do exactly the same job, or have the same focus but despite areas of conflict it does work. The human body is a brilliant example of working compromise. Perhaps our joint library should be viewed in the same way.