The Thriving Library: Successful Strategies for Challenging Times

Kylie Bailin (University of New South Wales Library, Sydney, Australia)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 30 May 2008




Bailin, K. (2008), "The Thriving Library: Successful Strategies for Challenging Times", Library Management, Vol. 29 No. 4/5, pp. 453-454.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Marylaine Block's excellent, well‐written book delivers informative and timely strategies for public libraries of all sizes and budgets to succeed and remain relevant. Although the author spent 22 years working as an academic librarian, she admits that it is public libraries that matter most since they are on the front line and can make the biggest impact in people's lives. This book is Block's solution to the many challenges that public libraries face from lack of funding, embracing information technology and proving their worth to the community.

This book seeks to highlight libraries in the USA that are thriving and is the product of a survey of 29 library directors and their strategies for success. There is a nice range of libraries surveyed from small town, county, rural and major urban libraries. Block includes the full results of this survey in Appendix A. The strategies that the directors ranked as “important” or “very important” serve as the ordering for the book's chapters and are as follows:

  • Emphasizing services to youth (28 directors).

  • The library as a public space (26 directors).

  • Building partnerships (24 directors).

  • Marketing (23 directors).

  • Stressing the economic value of the library (21 directors).

  • Training and technology (18 directors) – this chapter becomes Library 2.0.

  • Outreach to underserved populations (16 directors).

  • Helping the community achieve important goals (16 directors).

Each chapter has a real life case study that interviews a director who has had major success with a particular strategy. Even though all of the chapters are already filled with “how to” examples from many libraries, these are especially useful in that they provide an in depth overview of that library director's perspective and process for how they achieved results. Although the book is told from a US viewpoint, the strategies outlined are universal and they could be easily transferred to any country.

This book is packed so full of useful information that I am finding it hard to choose what to highlight. However the stand out chapters for me would have to be:

  • Chapter 1, “Focusing on children and teens,” which is vitally important in not just attracting future customers but providing a comprehensive service to children which produce 35‐50 percent of circulation in most libraries but rarely get that much budgeted to them.

  • Chapter 4, “Marketing the library,” which is difficult to do in that one has to battle the unfavorable stereotypes of what libraries are and what they can offer. Library services are rapidly changing and marketing strategies must adapt and promote these new roles; and

  • Chapter 6, “Library 2.0,” which seeks to discover and explore new avenues for libraries to provide services for. Library services need to constantly evolve with the changing needs of their customers in order to stay relevant.

In addition to the survey results in Appendix A, Block has also included a list of web sites mentioned in each chapter in Appendix B. She also has extensive notes for each chapter that provide references for all of her examples plus a bibliography and an index.

This book provides clear and practical advice on how to make libraries thrive in changing times. I would recommend this book to anyone working in a public library, not just the directors, since sometimes change happens from the bottom up. Having worked at small town public library myself, I am eager to hand my former colleagues a copy of this book so they can begin revitalizing the services the library provides.

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