As published in the Red Rock News
I’m Tom Binnings, one of the new members of the Sedona Public Library’s (SPL) Board of Trustees. I was honored to be asked to serve and feel it is a privilege to do so. I am very selective where I serve in my community as it is easy to be overwhelmed, and there are so many capable people who can serve. One of the key questions I always ask myself is, “How much value can I add and what might I learn?”
SPL’s vision captured my attention, and I decided it would be a great place to serve. This non-profit, community-supported organization is moving ambitiously into the future while adhering to the core values of public libraries, as well as its cherished past in Sedona.
I work in the field of applied economics and focus on public-private partnerships at the intersection of commerce and community. I enjoy the work and it allows me to operate from anywhere with good internet and communications. Since my wife has wanted to retire to this area since she was young, we decided to move to the Village of Oak Creek (VOC) three years ago. I began exploring the opportunities in the area a decade ago and traveled here numerous times before making the move. Every time I visited, I did at least two things – hike/bike and check out the library in west Sedona.
I went to the library to research local history, to peruse the bookshelves, and to just find a quiet spot to sit and work while absorbing the library vibe. Since moving here, I have come to rely more on the library, as well as local hotels, to access reliable higher speed internet. This is especially important when I make presentations around the Rocky Mountains and teach classes internationally.
I began my term on the Board early this summer just as SPL finalized a lease with the Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District to move into the Big Park Community School’s library space. As a VOC/Big Park resident, I couldn’t be more excited at the prospect of having a library with a popular collection and access to the full Yavapai Library Network right in my backyard. I’m sure I’ll be hanging out there quite a bit while tending my garden plot at the Rotary’s community garden, also at the school.
The vision of SPL is to create community through the use of its resources—the physical space, programs, loanable collections, technology, and staff. This is very consistent with the rising social tide in which many organizations (public, private, and non-profit) are creating community. For instance, large retail chains are adding gathering and learning spaces in their stores. Many Starbucks have added workspaces. Many local governments have built pocket parks along sidewalks where locals can gather, and dog parks where dog owners can meet up while their dogs play. Some future-oriented entrepreneurs have gone even further to develop co-housing with shared meals and co-working spaces with social and collaborative sessions.
As a community economist, I am intrigued by this notion and wonder where libraries of the future fit in. I do worry that some of the world’s 350,000 public libraries will not survive unless they adapt to this period of global economic transition substantially driven by social media, faster broadband, big data, and analytics. The emerging world increasingly finds us creating online communities, streaming media to our televisions, and generating individual and group data in many of our daily activities through our smart cars, appliances, phones, etc. The emerging world can put us together with people of similar interests, suggest books and media we might be interested in, and remind us of events we previously noted of interest. Clearly the most adept at maneuvering through this techno environment will be our children and grandchildren.
As an economist, I tend to think in terms of value creation. It’s important for all organizations to create value for their constituents and thereby for society as a whole. The more I talk to people from all walks of life, the more I believe value creation is a fundamental human aspiration. Most people want to give of themselves and in doing so frequently create value. How do we individually create value for our family, close friends, social networks, workplaces, neighborhoods? In other words, what’s our individual contribution to our communities – however we define community?
One thing seems certain—libraries are moving beyond being only transactional loaners of books and movies to becoming relationship-based entities focused on interactive programs and services. In a post-Covid world this merging of transactions with relationships and shared interests is relevant. Denmark libraries serve as a great example of this concept. They incorporate a four-pronged approach into their value creation model: 1) Experience & Inspiration, 2) Discovery & Learning, 3) Creating & Performing, and 4) Engagement & Participation.
I hope you will join me as we work to create the future of SPL and our community. This requires two things: financial support, especially in the VOC/Big Park area where we have made a three-year commitment; and we need your feedback (anonymously if that makes you feel more comfortable). Please be generous to your library. You can start by sharing some thoughts in a 5–10-minute survey. Find it at sedonalibrary.org.
Sedona Public Library is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. To make a tax-deductible donation to the Sedona Public Library in the Village please visit sedonalibrary.org/donate or send your check 3250 White Bear Road, Sedona, AZ 86336. Be sure to designate your donation to SPLV!
Sedona Public Library
Column for September 3, 2021
Written by Tom Binnings, Trustee
Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News.