Public libraries are busier and more popular with patrons than ever. Today’s library is a place for social interaction as well as quiet reading. It is a community cultural center, not simply a repository for books. It is a welcoming building with a design focus on transparency, not a series of isolated spaces. These changing operations directly affect the layout and organization of library buildings. So, libraries today must be designed to accommodate more simplified administrative operations and new staff functions.
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.
According to some research I came across, there are few academic library positions devoted to distance learning. You wouldn’t know that by the crowd that showed up for the 16th Annual Distance Library Services Conference. Trends in higher education suggest that distance library services may be where the opportunity lies.
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.
Last year, the American Library Association (ALA), working with the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), established the new Center for the Future of Libraries (CFFL), a new program envisioned as a way to keep libraries ahead of the curve as they prepare for what’s to come in the industry—whatever that might be. That lack of certainty isn’t daunting the center’s new director, Miguel Figueroa. A 2005 LJ Mover and Shaker and former director of the ALA’s Office for Diversity and Office for Literacy and Outreach Services who most recently worked with the Association of Theological Libraries, Figueroa talked with LJ about what the future might hold for libraries and how librarians can be ready for anything.
Public libraries have been publishers before, largely of annual reports, bulletins, and printed catalogs of special collections–items that are now integrated into the catalog itself or available online. More recently, libraries have facilitated the self-publishing efforts of their communities, such as Sacramento Public Library’s iStreet Press and Temecula Public Library’s Flash Books! And academic libraries have entered the scholarly publishing business in increasing numbers. But what might a publishing imprint run by a local library look like? Over the past two years, two public libraries have begun to explore that question.
Welcome to the 2014 LJ Movers & Shakers. The 50 individuals recognized here are passionate about what all types of libraries can do to enhance lives—for adults, teens, schoolchildren, infants, and toddlers. If there’s a common theme among their profiles, it’s that as much as the library is a place to go, it is also a place on the go—to wherever patrons or potential patrons are. The Class of 2014 brings the total number of Movers to over 650. It was difficult to select just 50 people to honor from the more than 225 nominations we received. There’s not one Mover, however, who hasn’t told us that they couldn’t succeed without their colleagues, so, in effect, the Movers & Shakers represent hundreds more who work in and for libraries.
Grappling with the literacy gap has long been at the heart of library work, and several conversations I had at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia got me thinking that we need to be more creative about how we address this persistent problem. Then, the Turn the Page initiative rolling out in New Orleans hit my email inbox, and it struck me as a fresh and much bolder strategy.
Since the term was coined five years ago, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have been a subject of much debate in educational circles. In their brief life span, the courses, in which up to many thousands of students can participate, have demonstrated the promise of new technology to democratize education by some and been declared failed experiments by others. MOOC professors, though, say that it’s too early to judge how MOOCs perform, and that after just a few years, even those in the know are still figuring out what MOOCs really are and what shape—or shapes—they’ll take in the future. Whatever MOOCs look like going forward, though, libraries—in the academic and public sphere alike—will play a key role in helping to determine their design and success. In just the few months since we looked in LJ at the MOOC environment (“Massive Open Opportunity,” LJ 5/1/13), the quickly moving field has evolved significantly.