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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Books and Libraries

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 13, 2009

Books and Libraries, how much longer will they exist?

 

A nationwide news feature about books and libraries has been circulating around the nation this past week.

 

The story says that “shushing ladies, dank smell, and endless shelves of books” may become a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future.

 

Reading more carefully, the story really uses the word “transformation” more than libraries disappearing from existence.

 

And, I was initially puzzled by the words, “dank smell,” but that may be the fact that librarians become used to the smell of paper and books.

 

Older library buildings used to have cork floors, and absorbed the smell of old books.

 

Many book lovers find that odor to be a warm and inviting smell, hardly “dank.”

 

Yes, libraries are transforming as our society changes, and the methods of information distribution change.

 

Yes, books will likely play a diminished role in our society in some areas as information becomes available online.

 

But, each year, more books are produced that the year before.

 

Print-On-Demand, computer word processing, and the general ability to produce a book without the traditional publishing house are keeping books alive in our society.

 

With that comes the fact that many books are now produced without the assistance of copy editors, and the final product is less than a stellar production.

 

Today’s library is online, with computer access available to the public.

 

Ohio’s libraries have almost 12,000 public access computers humming away every day.

 

Online databases allow the public to access a myriad of information products in-house or with their library card.

 

Ohio’s libraries contain 48 million books, which are now cataloged online and available for loan to whatever location you desire to pick up the item.

 

The article says that the biggest transformation in libraries is their conversion to a “community centered role.”

 

As I have stated before, public libraries are becoming the “last public service desk” that the public has in many communities.

 

Other agencies have closed and are gone, schools are clustered in campus settings, and local offices that used to serve the public have left our society structure.

 

The public library is nearly the only place to find a human being at a service desk, not enclosed behind a web of security and metal detectors.

 

Programs and discussion groups are well-attended at libraries around the nation, as we find that society cannot exist with computer chat-rooms alone.

 

We need to find how to incorporate libraries into the Twitter, Face Book, and Digg world of communication.

 

Budget cuts, including Ohio’s recent reductions, are making this harder as library hours and library staffs diminish.

 

Another bit of news this past week came from the Cuyahoga County Library System in Cleveland.

 

They have had layoffs and staff reassignments, and are closing their Interlibrary Loan Department.

 

They won’t be sending materials as requested

 

What will libraries took like in a decade?