Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2007, 8:55 am
I received a lot of positive feedback from friends in the community and colleagues across the state after the publication of my last director's message, which focused on early childhood literacy and featured a photograph of me with my new grandson, Owen.
When you have a baby in your life, it's hard not to think about the future, and what the world will be like for children born in the digital age.
Technology and the tools we use to access information have become more powerful and integrated, while the devices we use, such as Apple's new iPhone, have become increasingly smaller. Whole communities, as well as restaurants, shopping malls and public libraries, offer wireless Internet access, and web sites are now being rethought and redesigned as actual destinations not just information access points.
Technology has made life easier in many respects. It's increased our desire for and ability to access information. It's also spurred on a new age of "connectedness" as people forge online communities, based on similar interests and ideas, with other people who may live across town or across the globe.
At the Library, we evaluate changing technologies and societal trends in an effort to see how they can be used to benefit patrons and increase the value of provided library services. An example is our new customer service model, which is designed what they need and the library atmosphere more inviting.
The most noticeable change for patrons is what's widely referred to in the library field as "roaming reference." Roaming reference gets librarians out from behind their traditional bunker-like, and often intimidating, desks and into the library stacks, where the people and the books actually are. It's a major cultural shift, made possible because of technology.
Rather than running back and forth between a patron with a question and a computer that's hard wired to a desk, roaming staff members are equipped with small, handheld computers that can access the library catalog and online resources. The staff can actually help people at the "point of puzzlement," or the moment where they are looking for something, but they aren't quite sure what it is or how to find it. We've all been there! Roaming reference has made staff more available to patrons and able to provide help at the moment it's needed.
Another change, to be implemented later this year, is the addition of a welcome desk in both buildings. We've found that many people walk into the Library with a question, such as the location of the meeting room or tax forms, which can easily be answered by a staff member stationed in the lobby.
We are also displaying items in a way that makes them more attractive and easy to browse less like a traditional library and more like a bookstore. This, too, eliminates frustration and reinforces the image of the Library as a warm, inviting place where you can find what you need and connect with people to help you.
By remaining open and responsive to change, I'm confident the library of the future will be an important part of community life, and that Owen will someday bring his children to storytime in person or on-line at his local public library.