By Joe Moore
Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.”, and it’s true in so many areas of our lives. An obvious example is analyzing the demographics of the recent presidential election and realizing that 20th Century political strategies don’t work in the 21st Century. But beyond politics, there are many other changes taking place, particularly in the publishing industry with the rapid growth of electronic books.
Some, like the ones in my South Florida region are reinventing themselves with a solid plan for keeping their doors open. Libraries still have millions of books to lend, but what some are doing, and all need to consider, is to turn themselves into active community centers. They need to expand book-lending into a wide variety of community services and functions from helping with job searches to offering classes in a wide variety of activities for all ages. Getting bodies in the door and becoming places to socialize are the keys.
Because of the expanded features, local libraries are defying dire predictions of death in the digital age and are now busier than any time in their history. Statistics show that fewer than half of the library’s transactions involve the checking out of a printed book. Patrons are downloading e-books, audiobooks and music through the library’s online sites.
The use of the library’s cybercafés and free WiFi is exploding. Now patrons can borrow DVDs, e-book readers and iPads. Their popularity is evident with long waiting lists for each. There is an abundance of online classes including foreign language courses and arts and crafts.
The goal as stated by so many library managers is to let the public know that they’re about more than just books. The main library in the county has a first-floor lounge with 56 computers available for their patrons, many struggling with the economy. With many out of work, they no longer have Internet access. That’s where the library comes in. Advice and classes in resume writing, interview techniques and how to search want ads are basic features of the reinvented library.
The times are changing for the better with libraries becoming less of a dusty, silent reading room to an active, busy community hub; a fun and useful place for everyone.
How about the libraries in your community. Are they adapting or struggling? And even more interesting, when was the last time you visited your local library.
THE BLADE, coming February, 2013 from Sholes & Moore
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