A few things have happened “behind the scenes” at the library lately that have inspired this first in a series of blogs on the topic of the changing landscape of your public library. First, we migrated to a newer, bigger, more complex circulation system (more about this in future posts). Second, the library board met with village administrator Jay Shambeau on March 19th to discuss plans for a space needs assessment of our current facilities. Finally, the village of Kewaskum has experienced such growth in the past decade that all of the village departments (and public services) are or will be growing in the coming months and years. I’ll take this last point first because it was addressed last week by an article in the Kewaskum Statesman. Regarding the library, Mr. Shambeau noted that we are “plagued” by a physical space problem. In reply to this, Trustee Kevin Sheunemann stated that “libraries in the future may possibly be obsolete” and that we need to see if “technology is going to delete space needs.”
Interestingly, a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal echoed similar concerns. Although mostly based on anecdotal evidence, the article did point out that “[s]uburban kids, especially, often use libraries more for DVDs, story hours and computers” and that “[s]ales of hardcover juvenile books rose 60% from 2002 to 2005, to $3.6 billion.” Which is to say that the ways kids (and people in general) are using libraries is changing but also that kids (and indeed, people in general) are reading more books than ever before.
So does technology mean we should have less space? Less space for books, perhaps. If people are buying more books than ever, that means we don’t need to have quite so many in our building (although this begs the question of exactly who these book-buyers are and is that demographic the same one that we serve in Kewaskum). Current library trends across the nation show that more people are using libraries than ever before. Trustee Sheunemann is wrong when he postulates that the public library may be obsolete in the future (unless he is referring to some far-distant dystopian future), but he is right in saying that technology is changing the way that public libraries are used. Of course, computers take up more space than books. And programming, one of the most important aspects of library work in the 21st century, takes up even more space than computers. What we are going to try to do in the next few months is to answer the question of how much space do we need for what we’d like to accomplish with the Kewaskum Public Library. This means we’ll have to figure out what it is we’d like to accomplish and how current trends in growth and technology are going to effect that. We’re going to be progressive and present some new and, I think, exciting ideas. So keep reading and don’t be afraid post a response; it’s your library!
director, kewaskum public library