Great Library Roadshow

From the Digital Shift

It’s time to mash up two of my favorite great American institutions: libraries and road trips.

I am utterly excited to announce a trip that’s been in the works for a few weeks now, which we’ve modestly dubbed The Great Library Roadshow (“jazzed,” “psyched,” and “downright giddy” are also among the words I’ve used to describe what I’m feeling at this point). Along with Library Journal, this excellent experiment is being cosponsored by OCLC in celebration of WorldShare, and my thanks go to them for being game to help make an unconventional trip like this come to life.

The basics: two of my esteemed librarian colleagues and friends — Lisa Carlucci Thomas and Patrick “PC” Sweeney — and I will be traveling from Charlotte, NC, to Philadelphia, PA, blogging, vlogging, and tweeting our way to as many libraries as we can handle (see “Follow the Roadshow” for a running list of ways to track our progress). At the end of the trip, we’ll be rolling into the Public Library Association (PLA) Conference that begins March 14.

The official wheels-on-the-road-portion begins the morning of Sunday, March 11, when we all converge on Charlotte, NC. But the fun begins at T-minus NOW as Lisa, Patrick, and I work our way through the last roadshow preparations with your help (see below for more on that).

The background: Even those of us who are lucky enough to travel regularly to library conferences rarely get the opportunity to venture out in the field and see much more than an exemplar branch in the host city. Because of constraints on time, money, and other finite resources, it can be all too difficult to just get out the door and see what people are doing at a real variety of libraries, beyond those few with which we’re most familiar.

But we all know there’s so much more out there. And that’s what we’re after with this Library Roadshow — we’re aiming to illuminate how innovation and community intersect. We hear all the time about forward-looking services, brilliant apps and platforms contributed to by coders and librarians all over, and digital labs at branches and campuses everywhere that connect users with technology generally beyond the reach of average homes and classrooms.

We’re going to visit some of the places making those ideas happen and get a feel for what makes them work. We’ll consider what need the library is responding to, and hopefully begin to suss out how other libraries in a similar situation might make use of the same inspiration and hard work. As I’ve heard the OCLC staff say more than once, “it’s WorldShare in action.”

We’ll be reporting on the ideas we come across here on this site, along with library user interviews, behind-the-scenes highlights, and other tidbits we discover along the way. Of course, we’ll also send real-time updates which you can see on Twitter via the #LibShow hashtag (or see “Follow the Roadshow” for more outlets).

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