Message to the community from Luren E. Dickinson:
Everyone is talking about the “library of the future” but no one is sure what it is exactly or what it will look like. With current and potential constraints on public funding, no one is sure how to pay for it either!
Perhaps recent discussions were prompted by the February 16 story in the Denver Post, later featured in national media, announcing that the Denver Public Library would become the first major system in the nation to allow its patrons to download movies from home. According to the Denver Library’s website, this new service will begin in mid-March and “the first movies will be documentaries, self-help and travelogues.” The only feature film named to date has been Gone with the Wind. Interestingly, the company providing the downloadable technology is Cleveland-based OverDrive, which licenses audiobooks to CLEVNET among others.
Last week’s edition of Crain’s Cleveland Business featured several stories on technology, including one entitled, “Libraries Enter New Age.” It quotes librarians from across the state and mentions that the Cuyahoga County Public Library hopes to begin offering downloadable videos this summer. The article states, “not surprisingly, patrons lag behind staff for using downloaded technology; that activity represents less than 1% of all materials circulated through Cuyahoga County Public libraries.” Shaker has had a similar experience.
E-books are a prime example of this slow adoption by the general public. Last month, a publisher’s representative was quoted on CNN saying. “It could take as many as 10 more years for e-books to become as commonplace as print. Then again, she made that prediction a decade ago, she said, ‘and those 10 years have come and gone.’” Even college bookstores are finding that almost no students are opting to buy an e-textbook instead of an “old fashioned” textbook.
Despite the continuing dependence on traditional library materials, such as books, many still foresee a time when public libraries will become something more than repositories. NPR’s Talk of the Nation program aired a segment on February 27 entitled, “If a Library Is Bookless, What's In It?” The consensus seemed to be that public libraries will become cultural and community centers rather than just information places. It was heavily emphasized, however, that a tremendous amount of knowledge is still not available online and that it may take a decade or more to digitize all that exists.
Based upon a study conducted by the American Library Association in January, “ninety-two percent of survey respondents believe libraries will still be needed in the future – even with all of the information available on the Internet.” Many see libraries of the future becoming places where people come to meet others, to share knowledge, and to learn.
As March begins, 75% of the roofing restoration project at the Main Library is finished and it should be completed—weather permitting—before the end of April. Our next steps will be to improve the security of audiovisual materials at both library locations. Then we will have to consider what we want to put inside the library to serve the upcoming generation.
Now is the time to examine how we serve babies and toddlers, elementary and middle school students, teens, young adults, adults and seniors. We have an opportunity to consider the changing role of the public library when we renovate the unfinished areas of our buildings and reconfigure others as we begin to create the Shaker Library of the future!
Luren E. Dickinson,