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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.

New Formats for Old Books

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, November 16, 2014

When our library opened in 1902, the stated purpose was to provide information to the public with research and study, and “light” reading.  Over the years, “light reading” changed to personal interest reading, recreational reading, and a 1950s statement called it “reading-for-fun.”


In the 112 years since the front door opened, that purpose has really not changed.  What have changed are the tools that libraries use to meet that original purpose.


To that, I would add that functions that formerly belong to local, state and federal offices that used to occupy space in our communities have been handed off to the local public library as those offices have closed and disappeared from the local scene.


That could be as simple as acquiring the proper forms and paperwork for some purpose, to doing an online survey or registration for an agency or organization.  We are also acquiring more and more “the public library has more public computers than we do” comments so people are appearing at our door step with that need.


What ever happened to all of those computer labs for the public that were promoted in the last decade around our communities?


Now libraries are seeing the next step in resource management within our collections, where traditional paperbound books are disappearing and being replaced with online resources that are easier to use, constantly updated, and available to larger numbers of people.


Even an “old librarian” such as yours truly will admit that this is a great move for everyone involved.  I have identified four (4) areas where we are seeing the changeover to a new media.


Libraries used to purchase all of those testing books to help college-bound students with the tests that would get them into the college of their choice.  ACT and SAT test books were the most requested, and nearly as soon as the print was dry on the paper, the book was out-of-date.


We also could not provide enough copies to satisfy the demand for them, so I am hereby telling you that our library has quit buying those test books.  Instead, our web site has access to “Learning Express” which provides eBook copies of all the same books, except they are the current, most up-to-date copies available.


In addition to the ACT, SAT, NMSQT, PSAT, AP, and Essay Test books, there are also the categories of computer skills, job and career accelerator, adult learning, career center, school center, high school equivalency, and college prep.


Libraries used to purchase all of those automotive manuals, which got covered with grease and oil during their lifetime, but I am sorry to report that most of these have been discontinued.


We now have “Motor Manual” and “Auto Repair Chilton’s Online Library” both of which allow you to enter the specific vehicle you are working with, and it will take to instructions specific to that vehicle which can be printed and used in the shop with the repair process.


Libraries used to struggle to provide all of the legal forms and information requested by the public, some specific to the state and local area.  We would supplement those forms with others provided by the area offices requiring the forms.


That is now on “Gale Online Legal Forms” with connects the user with forms relating to divorce, marriage, home ownership and real estate, rental agreements, and so on.


We also keep local files of requested documents, and supplement the service with Public Notary service at most library locations.


Libraries used to point with pride at our array of encyclopedias and their beautiful bindings, making quite an attractive array in our Reference areas.  We even pointed with pride at our inventory that allowed replacement sets every three years.


Well, we still purchase World Book Encyclopedia in paper format to have as a quick reference (in case the Internet goes down) but we also have World Book Online which is under continuous revision and updating.


Many other Reference titles are fading away into the sunset as their information is now appearing in various online services.  Some require you to enter your library card number as they are services paid for by the library system.


These are not free to the library; we must acquire them just like the books they replaced.  And yes, I know you can find anything on the Internet for free; well sorta and maybe.  I wouldn’t give up my library card just yet.


And there stands the difference with your local public library ----- it has real human beings to help you in-person or via the phone, or via a fax, or a contact click on the web page.  Send us a post card if you like, we are here!