Libraries are famously expected to be quiet.
It is still the case in some libraries, but this has been changing for some time. The inhabitants of a library expect a certain amount of noise and activity. The keys clicking, pages turning. Staff are helping with questions, checkouts, or shelving books.
A great library actually purrs.
It is the sound of contentment: staff are busy with projects, experiments, helping patrons. Patrons are delighted with success on their personal quest, sitting in their favorite chair. Whenever you get a chance, stop what you are doing, take a moment, and listen: does your library purr?
Staff alignment is essential in a great library. If the staff think of their work as “just a job,” it shows. When they are excited to be at work, enthusiastic about making a difference in the lives of their patrons, and confident about their tasks and the work of their colleagues, it also shows.
Well-tended, responsive collections in an engaging setting are another key ingredient. As someone walks through the library, or browses the library site, what will they discover? Is there a sense that this is or could become their favorite place? What makes it memorable?
Creative spark is the last essential ingredient. Is there room for creative spark in the day-to-day operations? A great library is a place of great ideas, both on the shelves and in the library experience.