The future of libraries.

Photo via Stephen's Lighthouse
Photo courtesy of Stephen's Lighthouse

At the moment the future of libraries is an uncertain one on many levels. If you’ve been reading Library Hotline, Library Journal, Or American Libraries the articles of all the hardships bombard you with reductions of staff, budget cuts , branch closings, and even total systems going under . During these times we are all feeling the crunch of reduced budgets and more work due to positions not being filled. It can be hard to think about what’s on the horizon when faced with the issues in the present, however, we really need to use this as a catalyst instead of a hindrance for what we offer.

Another issue we are facing is the fallacy that all print materials are going to be eradicated (Personally, I don’t think this will ever happen). Yes, some libraries are moving toward this, for instance the Cushing Academy has taken out all of their collection and replaced them with three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet, 18 electronic readers made by Amazon and Sony, and renamed the space a “learning center’’.

With all of these changes swirling around us it’s a perfect time to figure what we want to do and press in that direction. I think that finding a common ground with integrating technology and  programs that will be beneficial to the needs of the patron is key, while operating within the constraints that are placed on us right now. One good example of this is The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, in North Carolina, it has a multimedia space where kids shoot videos and record music. It also runs a blog dedicated to gaming and hosts video game tournaments regularly. Also, the Skokie Public Library in suburban Chicago set up a Twitter feed and text-messaging services for the library. They monitor local conversations on online social networks and use that information as inspiration for group discussions or programs at the real-world library.

These systems are on the right track by offering services that engage the patron in and outside of the library. These programs/services or something like them can be implemented in pretty much any library with time and effort. Some of the tools they are using cost nothing, like the blog and twitter account. If your library owns a gaming system like a Wii (or other device) you can make a games night, not only for kids but adults too. Working with the tools you already posses or free ones cuts out the budgetary problem. Then you really have to work on getting the information out there about them, this is where the effort comes in. The time that it takes to operate a twitter or blog can seem overwhelming. One way to do with this is by letting a group of people with an interest in the topic or program run them. Not only will this spread the workload around but it will also allow individuals to help shape and diversify the content. I guess the impetus of all of this is, libraries are changing technologically at an exponential rate but you shouldn’t allow your budget to undercut the services that you offer to your patrons. Share what you have and help create something that people will enjoy and want to be a part of.

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