Last Friday I had the pleasure to participate in a strategic “visioning workshop” as part of CML’s 20/20 Vision Plan. It was first in what is planned to be several community workshops over the next few months to engage the Columbus community in helping shape CML’s next generation of libraries and services.
The visioning exercises themselves were interesting and really helped participants step into community. For the morning round of exercises we were asked to assume a persona and address different aspects of our personal needs and what elements of a thriving community (education, culture and arts, safety, etc) would look to each personally. On my team Amida, a 36 Somali transplant with a household of seven struggled with maintaining her cultural identity while Richard (my character) a 40 year old architect with family and demanding career struggled to find community connections to the arts & culture scene because of an 80+ work week. It was interesting to try and document the type of transformation that both these characters (and other personas from other teams) would require to address their needs and even more interesting to think about the role that the library could play in assisting these kinds of transformations.
In the afternoon, the tables turned a bit and we focus instead upon the elements of successful businesses and/or enterprises that had also in some way had transformed or evolved perceptions and practices over time. Starbucks, ATMs, even the “slow food” movement offered elements of customer engagement and fulfillment that libraries could incorporate or benefit from.
In the end the greatest take-a-way for me really didn’t come the exercises or the roll playing with personas themselves. Instead it came from my careful listening to community member participants in not only the things that they said, but more importantly what they didn’t.
What I didn’t hear from anyone was nostalgia for libraries and a return to traditional library services of past. Instead what I heard continuously I can only best describe as a passionate affirmation that libraries are not only seen as vital to future health and well being our communities, they are essential.
In order for libraries to continue to grow, everyone seemed to agree on the idea that “i”volution (my play on words) was important. And as one team’s vision (it was one of many great visions shared with all) emerged at the end, the term “i”brary seemed to strike an echo with those that were gathered. Not an “i” as information. But instead “i”brary as in Individual, Innovate, Invigorate and ?? ( oh, someone help me out, what was the other I?) A library designed for individual interpretation, personalized use/innovation and community invigoration. In all another words … it was “i”ssential :) Ok, I know, I’m over-killing the idea a bit. I think you catch my drift.
Anyway, it was the type of day that I wish our time, talent and resources would allow every single community member to attend. But I am grateful for the those that could and from what I saw last Friday in this first of what will be many opportunities to dream, engage and envision… we’re definitely in good hands.
See more images from the Strategic Visioning Workshop