Thursday, April 20, 2006

Libraries of the Future

Calling all dreamers and wannabe space travelers -- Join Buzz Aldrin (at the Malaga Cove Library on Sunday, May 7 at 1:00PM) as he revisits his history-making trip to the moon. Take a journey into space as Buzz reads excerpts from his book, Reaching for the Moon and shares stories from his childhood about a lifelong dream of space travel.

Astronauts, famous chefs and architects, music festivals, art exhibitions, wireless Internet… This is NOT your Grandma’s library.

Like many other public libraries, Palos Verdes Library District (PVLD) is undergoing a transition to the library of the future. And, in many ways, the future is now.

Last week I attended a workshop on “The Future of Public Libraries: Matching Innovations to Expectations” with library futurist Joan Frye Williams. The workshop dealt with five Expectations that the most successful libraries would master. These included 24/7 Convenience, Focus on User Success, Info to Go, Virtual Community Building and Customer Driven Service Priorities.

How would you like a library where patrons sipped coffee while reading or chatting with friends (whispering not required); where vending machines dispensed flash drives and other useful devices; where wireless internet access is available; where paying fines is painless?

Would you like to rate the books you’ve read on an electronic service that learns to recommend books you’d like? Would you like to have a library toolbar on your internet home page? Would it be convenient to download a podcast of Story Time when you are unable to bring your child to the library?

Would your young teenagers like a special place where they could “hang” with friends, play computer games, listen to CDs, surf the internet, get help from a tutor, all under the watchful eyes of a friendly Youth Librarian?

Everybody loves libraries, or at least all those who know what they are like today and what is available. Yet there are many who remember their Grandma’s library as kind of boring and regimented and think it’s still like that. The Daily Breeze newspaper published an opinion piece by Adelle Shay, Business Prof. at LA Harbor College, who asked herself: Why has someone so attached to the goodness of libraries stopped borrowing books from them?

Shay’s response reveals her old fashioned idea of the modern library.

Perhaps the quiet is unnerving, and I require the sound of cash registers to make a title choice. Perhaps the chairs are uncomfortable and I want to sink into an overstuffed seat when perusing a book. Perhaps I think sipping a double latte is a browsing requirement.

For Ms. Shay, the book store has replaced the library.

I walked into Borders yesterday to look around. Every couch and chair was filled. People browsed shelves, read, drank coffee, searched for books on computers and mingled quietly. There were all kinds of things for sale that had nothing to do with reading. It hit me that the bookstore had become my library, and that made me sad.

It is sad, indeed, that people are unaware of the changes that took place in libraries while they were busily pursuing careers. The Moms who bring their kids to multiple story times know about today’s library. The foreign readers who take out books in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Farsi, Arabic, and Russian know too. All the patrons who use the various services (apply for a Passport; get a document notarized; browse a gift shop with a selection of unique gifts; buy used books at super-bargain prices; learn about computers and the internet) appreciate the library of today and will absolutely love the library of tomorrow.

By the way, next month is the Mysterious Month of May at PVLD. The program features 18 mystery authors on nine dates. Check out for details.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, thank you for capturing the essence of the workshop and relating it to the Daily Breeze and other events in the community and the library!


3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would love to see and hear Buzz---will it be standing room only?? RSVP???


7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neat oh! My hubby knows this guy and he will enjoy talking with him again.


7:54 PM  
Blogger gary daily said...

Bill, From perusing your excellent blog I can tell you're a big reader. Over the years you have stored up plenty of intellectual capital reading books. I really fear that changes in libraries are going far beyond adding amenities and allowing conversations above the whisper level--they are turning their figurative backs on the printed word between covers. See my:
Try this test on people you meet who have grown up on screens--movie, TV and computer. Ask them if they have ever read an entire book on screen. Not many, if any. Now check out the declining literacy rates for adults in the recent NEA study "Reading at Risk." And finally look at library budgets over the past ten years to see where the money is going. Hint: It's not into books, journals and quality print materials--this stuff doesn't have buttons and bells, no instant gratification.
gary d

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:28 AM  

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