Tuesday, January 27, 2015

21st Century Library Services, 1980’s Building

Don’t get me wrong, the Plainfield Public Library provides some amazing 21st century library services: loaning Roku boxes for streaming video; downloadable ebooks, eaudiobooks, magazines and music; technology help; computer classes; job seeker support; subscription databases; the laundry list goes on and on. But the thing that holds the library back from truly fulfilling the community’s needs is this building. Yes, the Board and staff have done a great job keeping it looking good. But every single day – and the Library is open 7 days a week – a resident with a need is turned away without getting what they need because their need requires something this building just doesn’t have - space.

From kids working on group projects, to tutors seeking somewhere to meet with their students, to community organizations seeking a room to hold a meeting, to businesses seeking a larger room for Skype or Go To Meeting, community, study and meeting space of all kinds is a daily request that cannot be fulfilled by this facility. Computer classes are limited in size and cramped into a room not designed for technology. The small size of the meeting rooms limit all programs, like author events, our annual teen murder mystery play and everyday children’s programs.

This building was designed in 1988-1989, before the Internet, email or cell phones were widely used. Before texting existed. When faxing was high-tech. When Miami Vice colors were in (thank goodness those are nearly gone from the building). When paper tax forms were still widely available. When many of today’s library users were very small children or weren’t born yet.

Libraries are now community gathering spaces, where creation of content and collaboration occur, where people connect with each other. Technology has fundamentally changed how libraries deliver service – and the way people use public libraries has changed along with it. Computer classes and technology help are a huge part of library service today. And they take up space that just wasn’t in the plan in the 1980’s.

We’re halfway there. We’ve begun 21st century services. With a little elbow room, the Plainfield Library could be the community’s 21st century gem.

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