Transform and Thrive: Ideas to Invigorate Your Library and Your Community. By Dorothy Stolz, Gail Griffith, James Kelly, Muffie Smith, and Lynn Wheeler. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2018. 168 p. Paper $60.00 (ISBN 978-08389-1622-3).

Transform and Thrive is a rather eclectic short volume written by five librarians from the Carrol County (MD) Public Library. It is part aspirational cheerleader for change agents and part historical humanities lesson, coupled with a dash of program and service ideas.

The book’s four chapters wend through the authors’ perspectives on risk taking, customer service, library leadership and creativity. Each chapter is a blend of philosophical underpinnings of the social contract and examples of potentially responsive library projects and processes. In addition, each chapter includes “call and response” rhetorical questions and answers, such as “Can we be resilient, daring and unruffled no matter what the situation—like the Ford Motor team? Yes! . . . Can we strive for the ideal to help libraries work toward the future and not get stuck in the past? Of course!” (p. 120).

Each chapter serves to answer the question posed to librarians by engineer Andrew Trexler, “Since people can now hold the information world literally in their hand with a small device, what are libraries doing to survive and thrive?” (p. ix). In response, the authors stress that the overarching purpose of libraries is to enlighten humanity. Later, the reader is challenged to seek inspiration beyond merely increasing circulation and attendance statistics, as libraries will not likely succeed in the long run with such a strategy. Admirable and relevant, yet there is a considerable lack of pragmatic implementation ideas while the authors call us to the rather intuitive thing most libraries do, which is to “celebrate all that’s good in the community and connect it with the library” (p. 25). While the book’s title purports change proponents to best serve communities, suggested ideas run to the more “tried and true,” such as programs featuring Shakespeare themes, local business features, and variations of maker spaces. Acknowledgement is given that “a specific formula that will guarantee success (for all libraries) does not exist” (p. 97). Rather than prescription for innovative ideas, several pages ruminate on the thoughts of Plato, Ben Franklin, Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln, and other historical figures in mini civics lessons.

The photographs used to illustrate the book are small and dark. Some also do not align with the text. While the authors convey that the theme of the song “Respect,” sung by Aretha Franklin, provides guidance in how to best serve library patrons, the photo that accompanies the text is of her singing “My Country ‘tis of Thee” at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration (p. 47).

The nine appendices are also a mixed bag. The “Thinking Things Through” checklist from the Maryland State Library and the “Sample Programming Planning and Evaluation Guide” from the Carroll County Public Library are among the most pragmatic and adaptable ideas in the book. However, the “Suggested Resources” list would have benefitted from additional information, such as a brief description of the listed organizations and their websites. The “Recommended Reading” list is as short and eclectic as the rest of the book in its mix of classic philosopher and modern creative leadership authors.

At $60, Transform and Thrive is too pricey to be an essential purchase for most libraries. However, Library and Information Science degree programs, as well as libraries currently undertaking change processes, might want to consider adding a copy, particularly if they are in need of inspiration for board members and staff.—Lisa Williams, Masters in Library Science, Moline, Illinois


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