Saturday, March 22, 2008

Library2Play Thing #15 The Future of Libraries

I came of age in the pre-internet library. Back when I got my MLS it was in "Library Services" not, Information Technology. The changes have come fast and furious in the past 20 years and I can see them in the school library that I run.

I don't buy paper encyclopedias any more - I think it's been over 10 years since I last bought The World Book Gone too are the states books - no more Texas :The Lone Star State or Georgia: Peach Capital to the World. Miguel of Mexico and Christian of Denmark wended their way to the district auction years ago. I buy very few biographies (only on the folks that are a "TEK"). No more "Molly wants to be a Librarian" or "Joey Wants to be a Policeman".

Oddly, when I look at some of the other district libraries and talk to the sales reps I seem to be one of the few that's changed the acquisition policy to reflect the influence of the Web. Many of our libraries still proudly display the 2007 World Book and last month a rep tried to talk me into buying a 50 volume states of America series by telling me a couple of my fellow librarians just purchased it. "Good" I told him, I'll borrow their copies should I ever need them".

The bulk of my non fiction buying falls within the Dewey 500s - the sciences. Kids still want books on dinosaurs, sharks and lions and tigers and bears. There isn't any reason to buy what I once did - all the information the kids need is out there on the net - either for free or in our databases. Long, long ago there great stress was placed on having a "well balanced" collection and having "information on everything'. My collection isn't well balanced at all - in fact it's lopsided. If a sudden need arises for information on a topic that I don't have in book form chances are I'll find more than anyone could ever need on the web.

Thanks to Harry Potter my fiction collection is larger than it's ever been - and it's strong on fantasy and on the series books. Kids still read for pleasure - mostly humorous school stories and fantasy. I know my choices are sound - our reading scores are high as is our ciruclation and I'm constantly lending fiction books to other libraries in my district.

The Houston Public Library is almost finished with a major remodel - within the next month they will unveil the library of the future. I worked in the old buidling back in the early 1980s, and it will be intersting to see the changes.

I'm getting a new library too. My 50+ year old school is one of the schools that is being totally replaced - the infrastructure in the old building is falling apart. As part of this we're getting brand new libraries - 21st century libraries. I want lots of laptops and I want it all wireless. I think I'll have less book shelves and more space for kids to gather and collaborate and cluster around a computer.

I won't be around to much longer once it's built,up and running - at least I hope won't but it's very exciting to be in on the design phase. We do indeed live in interesting times.

1 comment:

Froggy Wart said...

Interesting indeed!