I love reference librarians.

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I’ll bet that’s a sentiment not often expressed these days. Not due to any fault of the librarians, but for the tectonic-like shift in their reference functions. Nevertheless, I still do love reference librarians, and not just for my memories of all those sacred books under their guard. I have a new reason to be excited.

It’s just an idea right now, but if developed, it could place the reference function of the library at the very center of community life, and offer new life to the public library and communities as well. I call this idea a library community network. The new life I speak of has, in fact, been parked under our noses, hidden in plain site: nonprofit services and activities, and the networking skills of the local public library. It’s simple really.

Libraries are the community resource of resources, right? And most communities have resources provided by nonprofit organizations, some that residents may only be slightly aware of unless they’ve gone searching. Think about it. Nonprofit services and activities – sure, your local library has a display full of brochures, but there’s a lot missing.

For starters, all that information demands an organized presentation, a comprehensive, searchable directory listing. Nonprofit resources should be as welcoming as new book arrivals and children’s programming. And perhaps most importantly, missing from a brochure display are the interactions and active relationships with the folks involved in bringing nonprofit services and activities to the community.

Collaboration can be a beautiful thing. Community life is not just what local governments and businesses offer, but what is offered by nonprofits that actively serve their communities. Networking libraries with nonprofits is both useful and practical: it merges the library’s skills for information gathering and dissemination with the wide-ranging content provided by community-based nonprofits.

We should put the reference back where it belongs – in our local public libraries.

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