21st Century Library Paradigm – More Evidence


The 21st Century Library will be defined by those librarians running the library to meet the needs of its local community, more than by the profession, or schools of library and information science, or by any association of librarians’ principles.

When I proposed this 21st Century Library Paradigm, I tried to make the case that there is a new library paradigm. It seems appropriate to provide more evidence for this paradigm.

I will gladly give credit to Director Bob Farwell, Otis Library, Norwich, CT for providing me a perspective that tipped the scales in favor of this paradigm description. Bob’s comment to my Blog Post (“Community Center” Mindset Fosters Librarian Polarization”) stated;

I appreciate the distinction, but I have adopted the community center role for some very pragmatic reasons. First, we are a city without a community center. Literally. Our meeting spaces, programming and information services are quite literally, the only game in town. Second, the title was about to be co-opted by another facility for what was, at its core a recreational facility with some meeting space and programming appended.

Relinquishing the appellation community center ran the risk of marginalizing the library in the public’s mind by disassociating it from a variety of community centered activities. We are located in the community’s center, and strive to be a center of community activity.

Finally, I have to challenge the assumption regarding the public’s definition of a community center. There is no evidence to support the contention that our services at a library will be obliterated by references to our role as a community center. However, I have seen much more acceptance of the distinctions between a recreational facility and a library’s services to the community.

With all the commentary on library survival, new conversation regarding sustainability, new ideas about the role of the library in a 21st Century society, and obvious confusion about what the profession should be doing, it made perfect sense that a 21st Century Library Paradigm should embrace the locally unique circumstances of every library. I am certain that in virtually every state, there are a BROAD range of community circumstances and libraries that covers the TOTAL spectrum of libraries from the epitome of an exemplary 21st Century Library to those libraries that may not evolve beyond what they are now for another two decades.

This observation is not intended to be a value judgment, but a simple observation. We all know that economic impacts and societal changes are first manifest on the east and west coasts and work their way across the nation until they eventually reach the center – sometimes like a tsunami (Rock and Roll, hippie movement, civil rights movement, etc.), and sometimes like a ripple on a pond (fashion, technology adoption, business practices, education reform, etc.). The same affect will happen to the local library, and I will hazard a guess that the changes to most local public libraries will be more like a ripple than a tsunami. (I’ll have more to say on this topic later.)

All the 21st Century Library services being described in this and many other blogs, publications and forums will be adopted based on customer demand, which in turn will depend on economic impacts and societal changes within the local community. Whenever these changes happen, libraries that want to survive will adopt whatever 21st Century Library services the librarians and community deem are appropriate and necessary.

More Evidence

The Thompson Public Library/Community Center “is a 20,400 square foot facility.”
The Spanish River Library and Community Center [Boca Raton Public Library] “offers several well-appointed and functional rooms and areas within the Library which may be reserved for meetings or private events.”
Kendall Neighborhood Library and Community Center, Houston, TX
Sharing the Maryvale Community Complex with the Maryvale Community Center and Maryvale Pool, Palo Verde Library “is helping west Phoenix residents engage in a “mind/body dialogue.”
Villa Parke Community Center Library “This library, housed on the second floor of the Villa Parke Community Center, is the Pasadena Public Library’s newest information outlet.”
Kraemer Library & Community Center, Plain, WI
Deanwood Library, District of Columbia Public Library

A new library is part of the 63,000-square-foot aquatic and community center in the Deanwood neighborhood at 1350 49th St. N.E. The community center opened on June 25, 2010.

The 7,300-square-foot library features:
• Separate areas for children, teens and adults
• Children’s story time space
• 24 computers with free WiFi Internet access
• Space for 35,000 books, CDs, DVDs and other library materials
• Early literacy workstation (computer with special software to assist children learning to read)

The library shares access to the center’s multipurpose room for special library programs.

The new library and community center share space for a computer lab, senior rooms, tutoring rooms and community meeting rooms. The center’s design is environmentally friendly to meet LEED Silver Certification building standards.

This project is a partnership between the Deputy Mayor’s Office and the Department of Parks and Recreation

I could go on since my simple Internet search of “public library community center” contained well over 200 results. But it is obvious that my previous assessment of what is the appropriate role of the public library within a community was based on a serious lack of information, and my own bias toward libraries and community centers. (OK, it’s embarrassing to a guy who previously wrote that it wasn’t good for “the role of the library in the local community [to be viewed] as a “community center”, which will some day obliterate the identity of the library entirely”. I’ll concede that the jury is still out on that point.)

Still More Evidence

• In 2007 the Illinois State Library funded a Technology Toolkit project that resulted in a “Libraries as 21st Century Technology Leaders” guide. The several highlighted technology programs in the guide are impressive. (The full report on their study Libraries as 21st Century Technology Leaders: Developing a Statewide Toolkit, Phase I Report can be accessed through this link.) In the Introduction to “Libraries as 21st Century Technology Leaders”, it states;

Where is your library on the continuum toward becoming a 21st Century Technology Leader? You now have access to a variety of online resources that will help you measure your library’s progress and assist with identifying and implementing new technology applications. Check out the tools available at www.networkedlibraries.info: a library assessment instrument [restricted to Illinois libraries BTW], sample projects from all types of libraries that exemplify model technology applications to enhance services, collections, and library operations, and a wiki for sharing and collaborating on innovative technology solutions.

• The Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL reached for the stars in its summer programming. Through its efforts in bringing Space: Dare to Dream to the library and from the overwhelming response of the community, patrons, and the media, Gail Borden Public Library was awarded an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contract. The library pulled the resources together in a web-based cockpit presentation, featuring a blog, Flickr photo archive, YouTube video segments, and a live webcast of the once-in-a-lifetime event.

• USAToday online published an article by AP Reporter Jeannie Nuss Libraries launch apps to sync with iPod generation in October 2010 that gave a few sterling details to the different services that libraries are offering to their customers.

• People tend to have this antiquated version of libraries, like there’s not much more inside than books and microfiche,” says Hiller Goodspeed, a 22-year-old graphic designer in Orlando, Fla., who uses the Orange County Library System’s iPhone app to discover foreign films.

• In Princeton, N.J., 44 people are waiting to borrow Kindles, a wireless reading device. Roya Karimian, 32, flipped through the preloaded e-pages of “Little Women” after two months on the waiting list. “I had already read it, but I wanted to experience reading it on the Kindle,” Karimian says.

• The Grandview Heights Public Library in suburban Columbus, Ohio, spent $4,500 – a third of what the library spent on CDs – to give patrons access to songs by artists from Beyonce to Merle Haggard using a music-downloading service called Freegal.

• Jennifer Reeder, a 35-year-old mother of two in suburban Phoenix, tracks her reading stats on Goodreads.com: 12,431 pages so far this year – most of them in library books.

The Embedded Librarian Posted in March 2010 An “Embedded” Middle School Librarian in which he observed;

I was glad to see the recent post by John Kennerly, in which he characterizes a middle school librarian as “embedded”. She makes a practice of taking her information literacy expertise to the classroom, and works with the students “on their ‘turf’”.

While she may not have all the attributes of an embedded librarian, she does have some of the essentials, including a commitment to the educational mission that transcends a narrow definition of the librarian’s role, and a talent for building relationships.

[Read more Posts about the possibilities for the 21st Century Librarian role at: The Embedded Librarian]

It has become undenyable that libraries and librarians are doing their own thing. Therefore:
The 21st Century Library will be defined by those librarians running the library to meet the needs of its local community, more than by the profession, or schools of library and information science, or by any association of librarians’ principles.

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