Libraries 2016: Where Are We Now?

The Pew Report, just released, mainly concerns itself with public libraries.  But mention is made here simply to underscore what is true for all libraries.  One of the main takeaways from the Pew Report this year is that libraries are valued in their communities, but only if they are used.

Now surely this sounds painfully obvious, and perhaps it is, but the meaning I take from it is that if libraries remain hidden, remain quiet little platoons in their communities, they will eventually be overlooked and forgotten.  Those who have never used libraries, or used them very little, see little reason to be concerned when they close.  You really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  I mention this point first because in Europe, libraries are vanishing as rapidly as snow on a hot tin roof.  I need not add that once they are gone, getting them back successfully falls along the lines of a Herculean labor.  All the more reason that libraries must develop a more ‘in your face attitude,’ as the is the common vernacular has it.

Other important findings center on what libraries should be offering.  Should they offer books, teach digital and literacy skills, provide access to eBooks and ejournals, make available comfortable collaborative spaces, and quiet reading areas?  Not only do the vast majority respond,” Yes,” it sounds more like Oliver Twist’s famous reply, “More, please.”

Sizable majorities have yet to come down on one side or the other about moving books out to make more room for other services.  Twenty-four percent support moving out the stacks to make more room for collaborative spaces, while 31% oppose the idea. Some 40% think libraries should at least consider the idea.  The result of this is a proverbial one for libraries:  you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t’.

A growing consensus is emerging about how librarians can help interpret information as well as find it.  Those surveyed also see a great value in libraries.  An overwhelming number of women see libraries as integral to their communities (proving once again how much smarter women are than men), while smaller and smaller numbers view the library’s community impact as negligible.

When you look at the results perhaps you can see why we at Dacus try to provide as much as we can in various modalities, as the philosophers might say.  We still offer print books, more than 450,000 of them.  We now offer a wide-ranging selection of eBooks, more than 150,000 of them.  We also offer laptops, iPads, and MacBooks.  Dacus also provides more than 100 PCs from which to work, as  well as nearly a  dozen Macs.  We’re open 24/5 during the school year, and now provide ways to stay fit and study for long periods of time.  These are just a few of the favorite things folks have told us they wanted.  Happily, we have them all, plus everything else mentioned in the Pew Report.

Libraries today are thriving, or attempting to, at a time when everyone wants something different.  We at Dacus try to provide all that in innovative ways, all the while still coloring within budgetary lines.  It’s never been an easy task, and users’ disparate needs make it harder than ever before.  But we aim to please, so let us know what else we can do to make your visit rise to, and even exceed, your expectations.