On November 8, 2013, librarians and architects from around the country gathered at the newly renovated Central Branch of the St. Louis Public Library (SLPL) to discuss the present and future of building libraries at LJ’s Design Institute (DI). The watchword of the fall 2013 DI was flexibility, and the emphasis of the event was on creating libraries that can adapt to serve new purposes—some of which librarians and designers can’t even yet foresee.
It’s not news to anyone who follows library design that the mission is expanding from one of providing room for reading and research to a more complex, community-driven model that serves as a hub for a much broader range of activities. Hospitality-influenced amenities already permeate newer libraries and renovations in the form of lounges, cafés, and multipurpose event spaces. Now, some (literally) cutting-edge libraries are taking it a step further, adding kitchens for demonstrations and patron use.
The humble book drop is often one of the more heavily used pieces of equipment in the library, but these sturdy repositories are easy to take for granted unless they aren’t doing the job right. This month’s product spotlight takes a look at devices available from three of the top book return manufacturers in North America.
How often do librarians find themselves trying to explain that the library’s mission is not about books but about information? This public misunderstanding about what we are doing and why leads to a community misconception of what we should be doing in the future. The reality is that we as librarians make the same mistake all the time. We know intellectually that informational flow and access are our main missions, but our decisions and our hearts often put the focus on books. Books, in many cases, remain by far the best delivery vehicle for information, but there are many subject areas where other informational vehicles would be more effective, even if implementing those vehicles might mean less money spent on books.
In “A Genius Idea?,” Michael Stephens’s recent Office Hours column (LJ 3/15/14), Stephens refers to a post on the Librarian Shaming Tumblr that called for libraries to have their own “Genius Bars,” reminiscent of the Apple Store’s famous retail innovation. As Stephens points out, many libraries are already adopting—and adapting—this concept.
More than a decade ago, The New York Public Library looked at the changing needs of our patrons and realized bold action would be required. Particularly, we recognized that we needed to improve the programs we offer in midtown. Here, at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 40th Street, New Yorkers from all boroughs come to use our largest circulating collection at the Mid-Manhattan Library; across the street, researchers from all over the world use the amazing collections in the iconic building behind the lions, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building while local, national and international visitors browse our many exhibits.
In a major about face, the New York Public Library (NYPL) backed off its renovation plans for the system’s iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building as of May 7. Rather than eliminating the stacks at the central library—a decision that had caused no small consternation among New Yorkers, including newly minted mayor Bill de Blasio—NYPL representatives are now offering an alternative plan that leaves the building’s research collection on-site, ending plans to sell the Mid-Manhattan library across the street and relocate the circulating collection into the 42nd Street main branch, and making renovations to the Mid-Manhattan instead.
Makerspaces, open source platforms, and other library rebuilds were the touchstones of this year’s Computers in Libraries Conference. The attendee statistics for the 2014 Computers in Libraries Conference, held April 7- 9, are identical to those of a decade ago: 2000 attendees from 46 states and 13 countries. However, the number of speakers had doubled, to two hundred. And, with approximately a third of the presenters making their CIL debut, there was a palpable sense of excitement vibrating through the halls and conference rooms of the Washington Hilton.
Members of the Santa Clara, CA, library community remain in a celebratory mood this week after finally getting the green light to resume work on the Northside Branch Library. The nearly finished building previously sat untouched for eight months while millions of dollars needed to complete the work remained frozen by a bureaucratic snarl, threatening to permanently close the Northside Library before it even opened.
In academic libraries, there seems to be growing concern about the problem of space—not only a lack of it in our library buildings, though that is a problem for many of us, but also a concern that the spaces we do have are going to be (or already are) taken over by campus entities and programs that are related only tangentially, if at all, to library services. I’m convinced that this concern is valid, and that it should actually be more widespread than it currently is.