As the calendar flips and another year begins, it is with great pride and gratitude that I reflect on the incredible progress ULC and our members have achieved together in 2018. Through the many challenges we have faced in the U.S. and Canada this past year, I have been consistently inspired and humbled by ULC libraries’ tireless work to improve the world for all us.
In 2018, our members opened their doors and extended services to provide relief to their communities following disastrous storms, wildfires and other emergency situations. During this year’s midterm elections, ULC libraries helped boost voter turnout, and provided patrons with critical guidance and information about the voting process and issues on the local ballot. With the 2020 Census on the horizon, ULC members have already begun developing programming and resources to help local residents prepare for the process and ensure that the Census will accurately reflect the community’s diverse demographics.
In addition to leading their communities forward, ULC libraries have come together this year to powerfully elevate our organization, each other and the library field as a whole. This September, ULC library professionals convened in Baltimore for our largest-ever Annual Forum, engaging in critical discussions of leadership, innovation and collaboration. ULC’s Strengthening Libraries as Entrepreneurial Hubs initiative, launched in 2018, has coordinated the efforts of our members to expand the capacity for all libraries to support local entrepreneurs – particularly people of color, women, immigrants, veterans and individuals returning to civic life from the justice system. As of the year’s end, 142 libraries have signed on to ULC’s Statement on Race and Social Equity, demonstrating a powerful field-wide commitment to advancing a more just society.
These examples are just a few highlights of the remarkable milestones ULC libraries have reached together in 2018. As we look forward to reaching even greater heights in 2019, please join me in taking an in-depth look back at key ULC developments, activities and accomplishments from this past year.
ULC initiatives align the strengths of our members and allies to create strategic frameworks, generate in-depth research and develop tools that push the boundaries of what 21st century libraries can achieve. Here are top highlights from initiatives that we launched and expanded in 2018.
ULC's Edge tool helps libraries align their technology resources to community priorities by providing peer-determined benchmarks, strategic planning guidance and frameworks for continuous improvement. In 2018, highlights of this vital tool have included:
- Publication of three new white papers, developed using Edge library data, that equip public libraries to better demonstrate the role they play in supporting city and county officials’ priorities
- Comprehensive updates to the Edge Benchmarks and Assessment, the development of a new Edge online platform and the creation of new Edge toolkits (look forward to the launch of these new resources in early 2019!)
- Coordination of a Representative Sample of libraries from across North America that have completed the revised Edge Assessment, helping to establish baseline data for the new platform's Peer Comparison Reports
This year, ULC introduced Flash Polls to collect and share feedback from our members regarding hot topics in the library field. See below some key discoveries from 2018 Flash Polls.
Overdue Materials Fines
We learned that 15% of our member libraries do not collect overdue fines on some or all materials. Of those libraries, we learned that 54% decided to go fine free in order to increase access for low-income patrons or children.Learn More
We learned that 45% of our member libraries have identified artificial intelligence as an important topic, and 23% have a staff person designated as an AI lead.Learn More
Voter Registration and Education Programming
We learned that 61% of our member libraries currently host voter registration drives and 92% believe that libraries could help voters prepare for elections by providing a forum for community discussions about key issues.Learn More
Race and Social Equity
We discovered that 54% of our member libraries have established a race and social equity initiative focused on the public, and that 64% collaborate with national or local organizations on race and social equity.Learn More
Fine Free Map
In 2018 we published our Fine Free Map, an interactive resource that helps users learn more about why libraries across North America have reduced or eliminated overdue materials fines.
The newly-launched ULC Blog offers an exciting new platform for our members and allies to share stories and gain in-depth updates from ULC about key developments. Catch up on the posts published in 2018:
- Dreaming Big and Building Community
- Finding the Right Partner Leads to Magic
- Connecting the Library World and the Business World
- Scaling Up Library Services in Times of Need
- Discovering the Key to Collaboration
- Perfecting the Library’s Elevator Pitch
- Welcoming and Supporting Entrepreneurial Newcomers
2018 Annual Forum
Library leaders from across North America gathered in Baltimore on September 5-7 for our largest-ever Annual Forum. Entitled Leading Forward, this year's Forum focused on how public libraries can continuously enhance their role as valuable partners and leaders within their communities. Attendees engaged in thoughtful discussions, interactive exercises and brainstorming sessions designed to strengthen their skills as leaders, innovators and relationship builders. Click here to see a recap of this year's Forum!
Lessons from the Field
Our very first Lessons from the Field trip to Richland Library was a resounding success! More than 40 ULC member library leaders toured Richland Library branches, learned about human-centered design ideas, engaged in discussions about the library's role in addressing community challenges and created plans for how they could apply the lessons they learned back home.
ULC's webinar series allowed our members to engage with peers and subject matter experts to discuss a wide range of topical library issues in 2018. Here are top highlights from this year's ULC webinars.