Hit ’em Where They Ain’t

Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler boiled down his success with those 5 words. Conversely, methinks that’s one of the problems libraries face today. So many people think that the physical building is what defines a library. OPACs and library web pages are on the front lines of that battle, providing patrons with a virtual library presence. They’ve been fighting the good fight for years now. But a new soldier has entered the fray as of late: field trips.

This passed Monday I went to the Buzzell Senior Center and took the 3D Printer with me. Twice a month retired gentlemen convene to have breakfast and listen to a guest speaker (then sometimes go on a field trip themselves). The director asked me to be one of those aforementioned guest speakers, saying that folks were interested in the 3D Printer. So I went.

I gave them the nickle tour, so to speak, of 3D Printing and then fired the thing up. Since Marvin (named after the robot from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) is but 20 pounds and small enough to fit on a folding table, it was a breeze to set up. The guys were full of questions and really enjoyed the talk. The only problem was, the object I tried to print didn’t come out. Pro-tip: make sure you level the print plate and check the z-gap before taking the printer on the road. Luckily, the guys didn’t mind. Sometimes seeing technology fail is more useful than seeing it succeed; it can make an unfamiliar technology less intimidating. Still I would have liked to show them how it works when all goes well.

I have another trip with the printer coming up for another group in June. I’m encouraged by this new tack. By going to potential patrons, it extends the libraries reach. It goes a long way to proving our continued relevance in the Age of Google; which, sadly, is something we’ll be doing for the foreseeable future.

Sometimes I think our non-traditional approaches (see Facebook posts) are akin to preaching to the choir. The majority of the folks we reach are already convinced of the libraries worth. By going on field trips we introduce ourselves to people that question our worth or at least are ignorant to what we have to offer. While Wee Willie found success by “hitting ’em where they ain’t” libraries have to hit ’em where they are. And that usually entails going outside the libraries walls.

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