I’m so into libraries that I challenge anyone who thinks they can produce more library cards than me. I’ve hung out in the largest public libraries of New York; the great university libraries of Philadelphia; and many of the small neighborhood libraries where ever I go.
I took great interest in listening to a recent radio interview of two people discussing the role of the library today. What I learned is that our Crozer library is ahead of the curve on what these experts tout as important for libraries to survive in the future. Here are a few characteristics of the modern library the radio show said were important:
- Has to improve its services to the handicapped, immigrant, children, and entrepreneurs
- Must adapt to digital access of all information
- Needs to focus on a relationship with the community and not the book collection
- Requires employees with skills in case management, psychology, and social dynamics
- Becomes the place where the community gathers for knowledge and skills that tie people together
- Suggested there needs to be noisy space in the library
- Must teach the art of searching for information
The other important point they made was that there have been a couple generations that have not experienced a school library. It hurts these students when they arrive at college because they lack skills in information analytics.
I’m usually camped out at the Crozer library with the other computer users, except I bring my own laptop and suck up the free super fast WiFi while the others are waiting their turn for access to the PCs around the room. I was surprised to learn that only 15% of the nation’s libraries offer WiFi, but we have it at Crozer.
Nearly 25% of Crozer’s floor space is dedicated to children and young adult books. They constantly have programs for the children. It’s not the quietest place to hang out, but after listening to the radio interview, that may be a good thing.
Crozer’s Director of Children Services, Lakesha Logan, shared a very touching experience on Facebook this week that prompted me to write this piece. She noticed a young teen boy come to the library alone early one day and devoured comic books and graphic novels which he seemed to enjoy. Ms. Logan begun to get concerned because the boy was there all day reading and took no break to eat. She spoke with him and learned that he walked over a mile to get to the library and would have to walk home alone in the dark. She saw that he got home okay.
Without sharing all the details of their interaction, Ms. Logan demonstrated the skills that the experts on the radio mentioned were required by staff at libraries in order for them to remain relevant.
It will forever trouble me how local government pulled funding from Crozer library forcing them to close on Mondays. Even more troubling was their statement that the library would have to find their own funding sources. With a staff of maybe 12 people working from the moment they get there to the time they leave, fund raising doesn’t come as easy as it does to a youth football program with 200 players with parents who can bake cakes, conduct tag days, and operate a concession stand, while still benefitting from local government buying them uniforms.
When a football is more important than a book, our priorities need adjusting. Maybe things will change with our new administration.