A sign of greatness for any person, business or institution is it's longevity. In the case of a person, it is their legacy. Libraries have been among the institutions that pass the test of longevity. It is a sad moment when that important fact seems to elude those who continue to argue that libraries should be a "relic" of the past. Librarians must ask themselves one question. If the local library were "great", would any community challenge the importance the library? Perhaps they would, but making their case would be made harder.
It may sound corny, but the first "mark" of a great library is a strong clear vision for the future. Library directors who fail to look beyond five to ten years in serving their communities are doomed to either ho-hum libraries or a closed libraries. The times in which we live is so incredibly rich with opportunities to expand and grow. Libraries are fortunate enough to be on the front line of using technology to share and distribute information. This is an exciting and the library with a strong vision to creatively adapt to the emerging technologies is one that will "survive".
Libraries that shape their programs around their communities' need for life-long education are in a better position to gather support then those that cite lack of time, tools and money as an obstacle. Excuses like these feed the fuel that libraries can not adapt. If they can not adapt, then its usefulness is overshadowed by the demand for the community to grow. What community wants to be left behind in the digital age? Unique programs which feature new technology is a good place to start connecting patrons with technology. However, there is still a place for traditional programs, but adding an updated version. One example would be storytimes, must be examined to see if there are other viable options to offer these programs. Video on web page? Using Skype? In other words, taking a traditional program and making it new again. Which is not as hard as it seems.
Leaders who have vision and think outside the box, tend to be proactive in the community. This means they don't wait for the Mayor or other city officials to come to them. On the local level, they go to city hall meetings, luncheons and parades. On the state level, they go to Legislative Days and meet with Representatives. This accomplishes two goals that every library should be able to achieve. One, the library, (or library director) defines who they are, what they do and what makes them great. Secondly, it keeps the library in the "spotlight" of the community.
What makes a great library? Not technology and gadgets by itself. Not even the building or the people who use it everyday. What makes a great library? Leadership, vision, and action. There is just one more idea to explore, bringing all these elements together and making it work for libraries. That a discussion for another time.