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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 Future of Libraries

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 9, 2006



A couple of weeks ago I was in Sacramento, Ca. and the news contained stories about the local library's Plan for the Future.


The Sacramento Public Library serves an area of more than 1 million people with 25 branches and a Main Library in the downtown area.


Their Plan included the need for more physical space in all of their locations.


At the same time, the Plan indicated that the amount of space allocated to books would be smaller.


At a quick glance, which seems like two goals that are tugging at each other; less books for a library, but more space needed.


In the past month, I was reading information from the Colorado-based DaVinci Institute, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is, "Unlocking your future, one idea, one invention, one business at a time."


They have produced a document titled, "Recommendations for libraries."


The Institute states that "Libraries are in a unique position.  Since most people have fond memories of their times growing up in libraries, and there are no real 'library hater' organizations, most libraries have the luxury of time to reinvent themselves."


That statement is enough to keep a librarian reading!


They recommend that libraries test user's opinions about their library experience and obtain their thoughts, ideas, and then figure out how to get to what really matters to your community.


Libraries need to embrace the new information technologies in our world today and help the vast majority of people who are "totally lost" in today's world of technology.


Libraries should preserve the memories of their own communities.


Only the local library will do that.  Local information won't be collected by anyone else, and if they do it will only be general information.


The future library will need more people space and less space to warehouse "stuff."


The DaVinci Institute is suggesting community spaces for meetings, and community gatherings relating to issues and technology.


This is where the requirements for space grow dramatically, further impacted by parking requirements.


So the issues of space in Sacramento, and the needs of the future library are connected.


It appears to me that our world is caught in the transition period of uncertainty of communication tools.


The telephone and cell phone are in conflict with the iPod and Podcasting with the television somehow caught in the middle.


Media formats keep changing.  From an 8-track tape, cassette tape, CD, into videos and DVDs, the format is not settling on any particular one.


So here we are in 2006.  When I started in the library profession in the 1970s, it was common to develop a Five-Year Plan for libraries.


Then it became the Three-Year Plan for libraries.


Then it became a Long Range Plan with no specific dates.


Now, it is just some-sort of Plan for some period of time.


Next week I will discuss some of the conclusions made by the DaVinci Institute.