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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.

The library's busy month

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 07, 2006

I am often asked, "if the library is as busy as it used to be?"

 

There is an assumption that with the Internet and technology, public libraries can be replaced.

 

The first four years of the 21st century have been the busiest on record for our library system.

 

People are checking out old-fashioned books by the bag-full, and videos and DVDs like there is no tomorrow.

 

People are posing more questions than ever to the library.

 

People are acquiring and renewing library cards so that more than half of our county residents have an active card.

 

So, with the Internet, why bother with a public library?

 

It can be compared to the 1950s and the advent of television.

 

Predictions at the time were that libraries would be a "thing of the past" by 1960 with everyone buying a television.

 

Who would want to read the printed word when they have a talking box in their home?

 

Who would want to use a public library when they have Internet access in their home?

 

There are many answers to these parallel questions.

 

First, most people cannot exist in their home staring at a television or computer box.  They have to "get out."

 

We see this every winter when the threat of a snowstorm empties supermarkets of milk and bread, and libraries of thick books, just in case.

 

Secondly, the Internet is a wonderful tool, but it is not the absolute answer to every information request.

 

There are indications that the Internet has less useful information and more "junk" that in its early days.  After a thorough search using the best tools, have you stared at the 8 million hits and wondered why?

 

Using a public library in 2006 is quite different from a decade ago.

 

The library's collection, combined with collections of other public libraries, are searchable online from home.

 

The library has expanded into new areas such as e-books and e-information that can be accessed and downloaded from home.

 

The library has commercial databases that can be used 24/7.

 

The library offers 24/7 Reference Service, so you may be using the library without ever entering the library's physical door.

 

The public library's service is now considered a "value-added" service to information technology, with real human beings working, available online and by phone.

 

In my early days of librarianship, August was the month when we worked in the card catalog catching up on filing and removing those 3 x 5 cards in the drawers.

 

August was a slow month.  Now there is no slow month, and thankfully no card catalog to keep updated, which it never was!

 

When something is bar coded and added to the collection, all those "electronic cards" for the catalog appear magically in the system.

 

I hope that you will magically appear at the library door.  It can be the physical door on the front of the library, or an electronic door on our web page, come on in!