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Thread: The future of libraries and librarians

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    The future of libraries and librarians

    I'm wondering about what the future holds for libraries. Right now they are filled with 'stacks' of books and periodicals. At some point in the future most reading material is going to be digital, when that happens will the world still need brick and mortar libraries or librarians?
    For that matter what exactly is it that a librarian does these days? After all, they don't have to maintain the (Dewey decimal) card catalogues any more.....
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    For that matter what exactly is it that a librarian does these days? After all, they don't have to maintain the (Dewey decimal) card catalogues any more.....
    Tell people to "Shhhhhhhhh!" and turn off cell phones? In all seriousness, I think there is a college degree in Library Science you need in order to be a head librarian.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    I'm on the Board of our County library. Our library (and many others) now offer e-book downloads, the ability to check out kindles, free access to computers for those without, we still have books and periodicals, reading programs for adults, teens, and youth, also provide free access to many databases. Librarians do programming, information science, cataloging, the reference desk is very popular as well.

    Libraries are definitely being hit hard with all the cuts. Some libraries have very reduced schedules or are having difficulties meeting the mandated hours of operation to receive state funding. When I was considering grad school programs I did consider library science/information science but in hindsight am glad that I didn't go that route.

  4. #4
    As a person who does research, I can tell you that librarians are very hard working.

    Even today, most new books are not available electronically, so there are many that need reshelving, etc. Even when all books do become electronic, the vast number of older books will never be digitized, so there will be a need for shelving.

    But what librarians excel at is helping find materials that range well beyond books such as memoirs and private papers, search databases (google is slowly - rapidly? becoming useless do to its focus on money making ads), help frame key words for electronic searches, locate books from other libraries, etc.

    I couldn't write books without the help of librarians.

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Our county library is modernizing all the time. They also have a lot of programs for teens and kids. Keeping it relevant, I suppose. There is a coffee kiosk in the lobby. Free WiFi and a computer room too.

    I am old school. I really like books with pages. A printed book you can take with you camping. Needing electricity to power a book is still odd to me. Though last night I was watching a commercial where they were touting an electronic book whose screen was designed to be read at night, eliminating the need for a night light. I guess I could see that. On those nights when I can't sleep I could read in bed without disturbing my wife. But on the other hand, I could just go into the other room like I do now.

    I go to the library a lot. Bars are an anathema to me. When I want to get away I go to the library. A library is a place I can go and do something I enjoy. Alone. And it is free.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Captain Picard was still reading physical books so I guess I will be too. I actually don't like to read off an electronic screen for any length of time. I do like to be able to flip through physical pages. My big worry is that there won't be any more librarians who take off their glasses, let down their hair, and become incredibly sexy.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dandy_warhol View post
    I'm on the Board of our County library. Our library (and many others) now offer e-book downloads, the ability to check out kindles, free access to computers for those without, we still have books and periodicals, reading programs for adults, teens, and youth, also provide free access to many databases. Librarians do programming, information science, cataloging, the reference desk is very popular as well.
    My community's library offers all of those things and we use them quite frequently. My wife takes our daughter to a weekly reading and play circle for toddlers. The reading circle (and other programs for very young children) is very nice for us because we live in a community without many children at all and most of our friends either do not have children or have children who are a few years older so the reading circle is one of the few opportunities our daughter has to play and interact with kids her own age since she doesn't go to daycare at all. The library is bringing in a petting zoo later this month so we will be checking that out as well.

    Our local library also partners with my employer and hosts classes focusing on research for entrepreneurs and they are always very well attended (I know this because I get stuck presenting when it is at that library ). I've talked with the head librarian there and she says that they have a steady stream of folks coming in to use the library for business research, as well as folks coming in to study or use the computers for high school and college research. I even stop in there for work as well on occasion since they have SPSS on their computers and our license at my office has expired and we haven't renewed it.

    The library has folks in from the MSU Extension office to give classes in the late winter and spring and then again in the fall. They also hosts walks and tours through the library gardens as well as through gardens at a couple adjacent homes with rather impressive landscaping. Then there are the lectures and talks with visiting artists and writers (Elmore Leonard is coming to the library next month and I am planning to try and get my copy of Rum Punch signed), organized tours to museums and chamber music events, free passes to local attractions, etc.

    These days, libraries have rightfully branched out to digital media as mentioned above, but seem to function as a community center quite often as well hosting all sorts of events that some folks might not have the opportunity to take advantage of otherwise.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I think there will always be a place for hard copy reading materials (and audio/video/digital). At the same time I see that libraries will be among the easier targets as local budgets continue to be strained. My quess is that we will see some consolidation with some libraries and branch libraries closing.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I've always thought it odd that you would need an advanced degree in a specialized field to be a librarian, but maybe I don't really understand what librarians do? In any case, a friend of mine works in the local library and he says over the last decade its really become a place primarily for the homeless and the very poor to hang out and stay warm while browsing the internet or whatever.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    They will always have a place. Our local libraries are nice and well run. They also do things for kids and have branched out to include renting ebooks, and serve as a quiet place to go and chill.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    They will always have a place. Our local libraries are nice and well run. They also do things for kids and have branched out to include renting ebooks, and serve as a quiet place to go and chill.
    Our district library offers lots of children's programs and events. The children's reading room alone is worth the price of admission because it keeps the kiddies entertainedd (there are toys and computers in addition to lots of story books) while grown ups make their book selections upstairs. The library also serves as a sort of community room and a number of groups hold monthly meetings and lectures or panel discussions there too.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Libraries also serve other purposes:

    Genealogical research
    Historic archiving
    Public access to the internet
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I would say that libraries are here for awhile yet. As has been mentioned they are a nice "third" place in the community and provide gathering/meeting space as well. Additionally, they are a great addition to the local public educational system in a community. Lastly, they are a very economical public good (ie great added value for minimal tax cost).

    But I have a history with public libraries, because I grewup in public libraries. My mother and father both have Masters of Library Science (earned in 1966), though the common term is "Information Sciences" now.

    My father was the director of the County Library for 28 years where I grewup, and when my mother reentered the workforce she eventually worked her way into the director position of the County Libraries immediately to the south of my home County and then immediately to the north. Then my parents moved to east central Michigan for the last 12 years of their careers and my father was a quasi-governmental consultant for a group of library systems and my mother was the Asst. Director for one of the local County Library systems. They retired in 2009, but my sister has worked for the last ~15 years as a clerk for a large Library system in east central MI.

    It's ingrained in me to favor public library support.
    Last edited by mendelman; 28 Jan 2014 at 11:13 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I feel like libraries are still as bustling and as crowded as ever. In fact, I feel like they're more crowded than I remember growing up as a kid in the 90s.

    I don't know if this is due to the ongoing Great Recession (and more people taking advantage of free services), the growing senior citizen population (what else is there to do during the day?), or the growing information age we live in.

    Long-term, I feel like there will still be a purpose for libraries. It may resemble more of a giant community center and computer lab in the future. In the meantime, I still like regular books and still go to the library on occasion.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Our local library had their 50th birthday celebration this past weekend with special activities, presentations, and concerts. We took our daughter in on Saturday for story time and some special crafts and it was absolutely packed. Thankfully, my wife had the good idea to go as soon as the party started so the children's area wasn't too crowded yet but by the time we left an hour later, there were kids waiting for each of the craft tables. Even the crowds out for the adult-oriented activities were pretty full. The staff in the children's area was looking more and more haggard with each passing minute.

    Lately, I've been stopping in at the library on my way home from work to pick up stuff that my wife has on hold and they seem to be busy every evening as well.

    I have discovered that they have free coffee in the lobby and it's some of the best coffee I've ever had. I'm sure it's just cheap stuff they buy in bulk but whoever brews it must know the precise mixture of grounds and water to get it just right.

    The library in the neighboring town is right in the heart of downtown and has a really nice looking stone and brick building that's over 100 years old. Over the years though, they built some very 1970s-esque large glass and metal additions. Even with the additional floor space, the library is very overcrowded and not easy to move around in. They are currently looking at new design options though and are planning to tear down the additions this year and break ground on a new addition that matches the original building. It will be interesting to see exactly what the newly enlarged building will look like.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    Long-term, I feel like there will still be a purpose for libraries. It may resemble more of a giant community center and computer lab in the future. In the meantime, I still like regular books and still go to the library on occasion.
    This.

    I never go to the public libraries here. The one where I live is ok, generally when I visit it is because I am representing my organization at a forum held there. It's an ok facility and appears to be well used by the community. I frequented the Rutgers main library pretty frequently for the 6 years I lived in Piscataway rather than the local library. I have a computer with high speed internet, I have a Nook, and frankly I can go to Barnes & Noble to peruse books and magazines for a couple of hours and get a cup of coffee too. While I have a toddler that loves books, there isn't any children's programming in the evening or weekends at the library. The Barnes & Noble has story time at 11am on Saturdays.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Our district library offers lots of children's programs and events. The children's reading room alone is worth the price of admission because it keeps the kiddies entertainedd (there are toys and computers in addition to lots of story books) while grown ups make their book selections upstairs. The library also serves as a sort of community room and a number of groups hold monthly meetings and lectures or panel discussions there too.
    Hopefully they will find a place as third area where people can meet/gather. I once lived in a place where the library had a little restaurant when first got inside.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I think libraries will always change with the media and resources we have. They will always be underfunded as well. I think a lot of libraries are become free computer access, movie rental stores, and kids programming. Not that these are bad things.

    For me my local library does a great job with the kids area, has decent books to read, and gives a lot of people a place to hang out, read, or just get out of the cold.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    ... or just get out of the cold.
    All the cold winter related threads reminded me of one other aspect of public libraries...they often serve as de facto daytime shelters/activity centers for the homeless during winter months.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    All the cold winter related threads reminded me of one other aspect of public libraries...they often serve as de facto daytime shelters/activity centers for the homeless during winter months.
    and during the summer months, depending on where you are at. I've noticed the same thing myself.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    My local library is a great place to get VHS tapes last time I checked. Compared to the libraries where I grew up Chicago doesn't seem too big on movies, they have some but they tend to lean educational more than entertainment.

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    My local library is a great place to get VHS tapes last time I checked. Compared to the libraries where I grew up Chicago doesn't seem too big on movies, they have some but they tend to lean educational more than entertainment.
    I'm sorry, but what are VHS tapes?
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I'm sorry, but what are VHS tapes?
    That's what you get when you finally decide to move up from your Betamax.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  24. #24
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    That's what you get when you finally decide to move up from your Betamax.
    They're for people that can't afford laser discs.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I think that they will be around for quite a while as well. We have a wonderful library here that goes far beyond just renting out books and providing a warm place for the homeless that wander in. We take our kids to the library about once a week. The have great programs for the kids to help them learn to love reading, lecture events of a wide range topics (bird watching to political history), and entire floors dedicated to local history and genealogy.

    The librarians there seem to be willing to go beyond the traditional duties and sometimes into a teaching roll.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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