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Guilty as charged: I don’t live in the community my library serves

Should a public librarian live in the community she serves? The obvious answer seems to be,

Yes, a librarian should live in the community she serves.

If so, I am guilty. I don’t live in the community I serve. I live across the river, in very a different city, in a very different province (more on this later).

City of Gatineau (across the Ottawa River)

In theory, living in the community she serves will allow a librarian to better serve her patrons (and potential patrons).

1- Build relationships with active members of the community by participating in local events.

2- Connect with patrons who are less active in the community by chatting them up at the park, in line at the grocery store, while waiting for the bus.

At least, this is true of small town living.

Has this dynamic changed now that more of us are living in newly amalgamated cities that have doubled, tripled and quadrupled in size? Now that we are serving community members (rural and urban, rich and poor) with very different needs and very different realities

Keeping in mind this one certainty, living in the community she serves will NOT help a librarian better understand the needs of her patrons, UNLESS she makes a particular effort to ask the right questions and be open-minded about the community’s responses,

is it safe to say that a librarian doesn’t need to live in the community she serves in order to serve her patrons well? As long as she prioritizes getting to know the needs of her patrons?

I like to think so. Then again, it could be my guilty conscience is trying to defend itself.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Read up on community led libraries :

Community led libraries toolkit (PDF), http://bit.ly/p7xPdy

Social Justice Librarian, http://bit.ly/b7LgLZ and http://bit.ly/hsCiS6

Librarians Matter, http://bit.ly/5mSF1


About Kayleigh Felice

I am a 20-something public librarian trying to find my footing as I start my career, take on new challenges, and enter adulthood (whatever that means). I live in Ontario, and I work for the Gatineau Municipal Library in Québec. Disclosure: The views expressed in this blog are solely my own, not those of my employer.


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