What will the local public library become in the electronic age. You can’t make me believe that books will become extinct, but even I have noticed that my personal reading has steadily migrated to more and more internet, and less and less to cracked pages. So try this for sustainable:
- Instead of expanding print titles, expand electronic titles. Make it so that they are only viewable on in-house monitors (to avoid copyright issues); make them searchable for students and researchers; and allow in-house downloads for a fee (this is like purchasing the book).
- Stop buying DVD’s that have been recently released. This is one of my pet peeves. Libraries have no business competing with the rental stores if they aren’t going to charge for their services. By buying heavy on new releases, you encourage people to make the library their local video store. But if a video store were to pay for its video’s and not charge for it’s service, it will go out of business very soon. That’s you. It’s like you are paying your patrons to use your free service. I suggest waiting 2 years before adding a title, not purchasing “R” rated movies at all (or enforcing underage restrictions), and consider streaming videos on in-house computer terminals. Now there’s an idea.
- Network with businesses, schools, and churches for more pick-up and drop-off locations. Also see if anyone would like to donate some space for library linked computer terminals. I’m sure some restaurants might find some space. After school programs will too. Maybe work a deal to share broadband costs if they already have wi-fi installed. Maybe increase their capacity.
- Create Facebook entries for every title for critiques and opinions. Link it to your online catalog search results. Maybe even link them to Amazon reviews.
- Invite local business owners, educators, artisans, and politicians to come in to comment on public showings of instructional/educational/entertainment/political/whatever videos. This can either be in the multi-purpose room or a live broadcast on a reserved set of terminals. Oops. That sounds like an education idea. I’d better save that one for education reform.
It feels like libraries are evolving into community centers. This need not be a bad thing, but if that is the direction intended, some accommodations are in order. Space for multi-purpose rooms will need to be found. In older libraries this is a problem. I suggest adding computer terminals and decreasing book shelves. Actually I loathe this idea. My image of the local library is a place I can go to browse the shelves and thumb the pages until I find a book that speaks to me. Excuse my dinosaur. However, whenever I go to my branch, the computer terminals are always packed, and the “stack wanderers” are few and far between. Alas, welcome to the computer era.
There are a few things that mark a civilization as advanced. A free library system is one. The student, the researcher, the job hunter, the maven for knowledge, the humanist, the curious child. and even the bored teenager, all these and more, benefit from cataloged knowledge and academic databases that are not yet part of the internet. Ah, but maybe that’s where this story is going. Will the public library survive the instant information age? Yes, it will! Unless copyrights have lost their meaning. And if so, woe to the authors who write for publication and profit. That’s the guardian role that the local library can play, as well as community center, ink and paper depository, and beacon of civilization.