Rural Library Sustainability Project Continuum
The Project Continuum is available to download as a Word document or pdf, attached.
Rural Library Sustainability Project Continuum: Talking Points
The Rural Library Sustainability Project was conceived, in part, as a result of the successful event that was hosted by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in conjunction with PLA 2004 -- "Sustaining Public Access in Rural Libraries".
This initial workshop attracted 135 library and support staff from 44 states who had come together to develop action plans for sustaining and growing their public access computing programs. Filled with lively discussion and inspirational stories, the two one-day workshops resulted in honest assessments of the tremendous challenges that small libraries face, but also an encouraging exploration of good ideas and solutions that really work.
The areas that were identified at this event as being particularly critical to the sustainability of Public Access Computing are all reflected in the broad categories in the Continuum: Technology Support; Upgrade and Maintenance of Technology; Staff and Patron Training; Funding; Outreach; Advocacy. In subsequent discussions with rural and small library staff, these categories continually emerged as the areas where libraries focus their “sustainability energies”. The first category in the Continuum, Library Connections, is a compilation of the major theme that emerged in all of our discussions with rural and small library staff: That is, the feeling of isolation and the sense of being all alone.
In addition to the information gleaned from the groups mentioned above, A February 2003 report from the University of Washington's Public Access Computing Project, “The Impact of Public Access Computing on Rural and Small Town Libraries,” also supports these categories. In particular, Technology Support, Upgrade and Maintenance of Technology; and Staff and Patron Training are prominently identified. Funding, Outreach, and Advocacy complement these three and support and report on them. The UW report also discusses the importance of planning for the sustainability in your library, hence, the prominence in our curriculum of leaving the Rural Library Sustainability Workshop with an Action Plan.
Another factor that is built into our curriculum and supported by all of the previously mentioned resources is the fact that the landscape in rural and small libraries is changing and diverse. What may be a huge challenge for one library is another one’s major accomplishment. Thus, the Continuum is by no means intended to be exhaustive or static. Nor is it meant to be restrictive. It is intended to serve as a starting point for assessing a rural/small library’s focus on issues of sustainability, and a guide for assisting that library in making progress in any of those commonly identified areas that they feel are important to their library.
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