Last week, the Institute for Museum and Library Services announced the 2013 recipients of the IMLS Gold Medal. The big take away from this year’s nominees and recipients can be summed up in the metaphor…Library as Agent of Change.
We might be tempted to settle for the notion that the library is already a change agent. We have accepted that we have the ability to change individual lives. To fully embrace the “Agent of Change” metaphor requires that we position the library as marketing guru, Seth Godin, would describe as a linchpins, indispensable organizations transformating communities. It may seem that to move from individual to community change is merely a matter of scale. Scale, however, barely touches the surface of this metaphor.
Embracing this metaphor may involve shifting our most valued resources from what we (and others) are comfortable with us doing to that which may be unfamiliar or unchartered. It requires convincing our stakeholders that we are supposed to be involved in transformative work. It means we seek out challenges; look to be a part of the solutions and take calculated risks. It necessitates that we fail and try again. Advancing the library as an agent of change demands that we measure success differently, or in the words of Robert Lee, Director of the 2013 IMLS Gold Medal winning Waukegan Public Library (IL), “…. we no longer measure our success by the number of books we check out, but by the relevant services and resources we offer to the community that put them on a path to success.”