Sue Considine is being honored as a White House Champion of Change for her leadership and commitment to libraries and museums around the United States.
At the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) we have redefined what a public library is, what public library staff can do, and how the public library engages the community. We are notable for our culture of innovation, our relentless curiosity, and our commitment to creating leadership opportunities at all levels of our unique, collaborative, ever-evolving organization. As our reputation has grown, the FFL has been featured in articles, publications and webinars as an example of what a public library can be when strong leadership, intuitive service, and risk-taking all align with community engagement at the forefront.
The FFL has a rich history of supporting the community’s needs by responding with user-driven, user-defined, custom crafted services. The library was uniquely positioned to respond when “Making” in libraries became a topic of discussion and exploration. The FFL quickly embraced the idea of integrating emerging technologies—even if disruptive–into our services, intuitively understanding that our mission is to create access: to spaces, to content, to technologies, and to each other.
With the launch of the FFL’s labs, the digital media Creation Lab and the fabrication and making FFL Fab Lab , library staff members raised the bar for customized access and services. Through the library’s Borrow-a-Bot program, for example, groups and individuals can make a one-on-one appointment with an FFL team member to learn about 3D design software and 3D printing. The FFL is the community’s only source of access to this wildly popularly new technology and software. By participating in programs at the FFL Fab Lab, patrons become certified “FFL Makers” and this impressive distinction is added to their patron card and account. All staff members also have the knowledge base to execute training sessions in the library’s digital media lab. Community members find having access to this cutting-edge technology is exciting and empowering and use it to come together to create, make and learn.
Additional pioneering maker programs that have developed from the inclusion of this new technology are “Maker Mondays,” “Take Apart Tuesdays,” and “Make Your Own Comic.” “Fabulous Fridays” also evolved along with making, leveraging the new library awareness in the community that “making” provided. On “Fabulous Fridays,” community members gather, meet like-minded individuals with similar interests, and form friendships because of the library. This is community creating community. This is the FFL philosophy in action.
At the FFL, many offerings for elementary, middle school, and high school students focus on the development of STEM skills. The FFL has developed several inventive after-school clubs for children ages 9-14. The FFL launched a First LEGO League Competitive Lego Robotics Club in the fall of 2012. The FFL is the first public library in New York State to host a team, and two of our FFL librarians have become certified coaches. The FFL offers Creation Club, where students learn to use green screen technology and photo editing software and can make podcasts and stop-motion videos, in addition to using the 3D printers. STEAMpunk Club is a club where students read and discuss literature of the Steampunk genre and also do fun hands-on experiments with STEM kits, such as constructing mini-hydro cars, solar trucks, and hot air balloons. Middle-school students and teens are enthusiastically participating in these new clubs and we see them in the library regularly now more than ever. The FFL has become a “cool” destination for kids.
I am passionate about serving the community and leading our library team. We understand and embrace the fact that the community drives and shapes the mission and service philosophy of the FFL. Patrons “expect more” from the FFL, and the FFL delivers on this promise. Our philosophy is simple: we let the community needs, aspirations, desires, and interests drive the library agenda. Our mission statement sums up what we believe to be true, that “by creating equal and open access for individuals to cutting-edge technology, unique and innovative learning opportunities, powerful ideas, and each other, community members will transform their own lives.”
Sue Considine is the Executive Director of the Fayetteville Free Library.