While there has been a wide scale shift away from traditional researching and reading of all information in paper books, the libraries of our communities need to follow along with the shifting tastes of the population in order to keep relevant and stay in business. There are many communities wondering what will happen to their libraries that are empty and have very little patronage. There are many communities, however, that are braving the current environment and changing the way their libraries operate in order the serve the changing needs of the community.
An example of such a community is in Barrington, Illinois. Their newspaper, the Barrington Courier-Review, had a recent story about the changes being made to their library. They are evolving to address the needs of their citizens, as observed by the library staff on the floor. They are expanding more space for the people to be able to come in and get together or have meetings for their groups and/or clubs. They also want to provide workspace for telecommuters in the area so they have meeting space outside of their home to conduct meetings. They really are aiming to provide a service that the members of their town will get benefit from, more than a traditional library.
Similar plans are underway for the New York Public Library at their flagship building on Fifth Avenue, as detailed in The New York Times in December of 2012. In order for that library to modernize and provide services that the citizens of New York City would be interested in, they needed to move a large portion of the books out of the main hall space and relocate it to off-site facilities. There was a lot of complaining about the long times needed to obtain the materials being moved off-site, but the plans have gone on as intended. The area that was formerly seven floors of book shelves, is now a beautiful four-floor atrium, and created space for meeting areas, work desks, and the ability to see the original architecture that has been hidden by the shelves for years. Many patrons of the library bring their own personal device and only require wireless internet access, and occasionally a plug to charge that device, and a place to sit is all they need.
The same issue came up when the University of Denver’s Penrose Library when they sought to modernize their library spaces. As with the other libraries, their primary intention was to open up space for individuals and small groups to get together and be able to collaborate and work together at problem solving and decision making. The controversy that arose was covered by local television station KSHB, and explains the complaints lodged by patrons about the books being removed from the library location. By keeping the most often used materials and relocating the rarely accessed ones, the library has benefitted by providing much more useful space for the students and faculty of the school, while keeping the books used most frequently. For most students, the materials they use for classwork are found online, so the majority of students have been well served by the changes.
Overall libraries are being modernized by technology. Plus, librarians also are integrating technology into their own work, as can be seen in this story about popular apps used by librarians.