07 September, 2009

The future of libraries

Games corner, Lalor library

CNN has reported that "The stereotypical library is dying -- and its taking its shushing ladies, dank smell and endless shelves of books with it."

Well, I don't think that Yarra Plenty was ever a stereotypical library by that definition, but even so, there is no doubt that our world is changing and as the world goes digital and libraries are undergoing complete transformations.

The article quotes Helene Blowers, from Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio (where two of our staff are heading on Wednesday for a job exchange.) She says that "The library building isn't a warehouse for books, it's a community gathering center."

Another person quoted is Rolf Hapel from Aarhus Library in Denmark who says "The library has never been just about books." In Aarhus they are have an exciting array of digital objects and discovery areas that illustrate how people can and will access information.

At Yarra Plenty we have introduced a number of initiatives to broaden the appeal of libraries as well as future proofing ourselves. Most branches now have video game consoles available and there has been a general decrease in the collection as the need for more technology means we need to make decisions about how we use our precious space. The Eltham Library redevelopment will take this a step further with its learning lounge, reading lounge and new children's library that will be more about space for programs and activities and reading space than about books. And the implementation of our RFID system and self service has freed up staff to deliver more programs and activities - we saw a 20% increase in attendance last year. We are just completing our Annual Report and the range and depth of the programs that are run shows what a modern library can do to promote informal learning and encourage a love of reading.

What we are doing is redefining the role of public libraries and ensuring that the traditional values that have ensured the importance of libraries are not lost in a digital age.

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