Crozier, D. (2008), "The Thriving Library: Successful Strategies for Challenging Times", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 191-192. https://doi.org/10.1108/00330330810867756
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
In recent years, there has been a growing focus on ways in which the work of libraries and librarians can be made more effective and on the ways in which this work can be promoted to the wider community, funders and policymakers. This book by Marylaine Block is a valuable addition to the professional literature, offering an enthusiastic, readable guide to the strategies and projects used by a wide variety of public libraries in the United States. To the author, mere “survival” is not enough – the goal of every library manager should be to develop and sustain a “thriving” library service.
The author's methodology was to undertake comprehensive research into successful library services, and then to analyse the means by which this success was achieved. This was accomplished by reviewing the libraries' strategic plans and policy documents, carrying out surveys of the directors of successful libraries, and holding interviews with some of these heads of service.
The book is divided into eight chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of creating effective public library services: younger readers; the physical library; partnerships; marketing; the economic contribution of libraries; technology; outreach; and community involvement. Each ends with an interview with a library manager that led one of the initiatives covered in the chapter, and offers a candid account of the context in which the initiative was launched and implemented.
The author focuses on the practical steps taken by different libraries, rather than on current broader business and management theory: the “what and how” of library practitioners rather than the concepts of management theorists. It does, however, draw practical lessons and comparisons from outside the library sector, including from the retail, branding, marketing, and political sectors. The book's content is also very up‐to‐date and adds to the growing debate about Library 2.0 and the increasing use by librarians of blogs, wikis, and virtual worlds such as Second Life to connect with users. The author contrasts the relative weakness of library OPACs compared to the sophisticated websites and databases that library users and non‐users encounter whenever they use online stores such as Amazon, or online DVD rental sites.
Many of the ideas in the book are directly transferable to libraries outside the public library sector or outside the US, although there are some elements, particularly those related to winning public referenda on library funding, relevant mainly to American readers. The author ends by reflecting on the ways in which her research had altered her perception of what makes an effective library service, and by emphasising the importance of providing truly user‐focused services, underpinned by outstanding customer service.
With the exception of photographs of those interviewed for the book, no illustrations are included. Illustrations could have helped to further showcase and explain the ideas and projects featured in the book, but this is not a significant omission. The quality and depth of the research that went into the preparation of this book is clearly shown by the appendices and notes, which run to almost 100 pages. Two appendices present the survey questions and qualitative responses from 29 library directors, and there are also ten pages of links to the websites of libraries, blogs, and other websites mentioned in the book, and 60 pages of bibliographical notes.
The Thriving Library is not a dry piece of writing, but a timely review of current methods that have worked, and a path and an inspiration to public libraries that wish to flourish. I heartily recommend it to public librarians in the US and beyond, and to librarians in other library sectors who can pick out the ideas that are readily transferable to other sectors.