Friday November 28, 2014

EDITORIAL - Library needs to prepare for fewer paper books


The Yorkton Public Library officially re-opened at its natural location on Broadway Street.

The facility had of course been one of the major casualties of the July 1, 2010 flood, a disaster which destroyed thousands of books and other library items, and forced a move to a temporary location in the Parkland Mall, while major renovations were carried out on the building.

The books returned late last year, and the doors reopened, and while about one-third of the collection still remains in boxes needing to be added to the shelves, the re-dedication was held last Thursday as part of Library Lovers Month.

In her comments Thursday local library board chair Sandra MacColl noted the library has tried to evolve through the renovation process. She said they wanted to make the library “less institutional and more like home.”

Moving forward the library will need to continue to evolve, and likely very quickly, to remain relevant as an institution.

“The role of the library has always been about words, stories and history,” said MacColl.

That may hold true in the future, but it will be in a decidedly different format than it is today.

While many hold onto the notion paper books will somehow hold out against the onslaught of technological advancement, that seems realistically unlikely.

A decade ago we would have been hard pressed to envision a world where film for cameras is all but impossible to purchase locally, that local film development is even rarer, that CD music shops would almost be extinct, and that DVD rental stores would have gone the way of the dodo, but technology has changed all that in the ensuing 10-years.

Digital cameras are now the norm, although cameras built into cellphones are on the cusp of eliminating stand alone cameras for all but the most ardent photographer. Speaking of cellphones, the idea of a home land line phone will soon be a thing of the past as well.

Movies are now digital downloads when rented, saving the trip to a store, and music, always a quick adopter of technology from 8-tracks through cassettes, to compact disks, and now increasingly digitally downloaded as well.

Libraries need to be aware books are going to follow the trend. The arrival of e-readers is signaling a massive change in the book sector.

The idea of digitally downloading books is appealing to younger people who see the ‘green’ aspect of not killing trees to paper, and embrace the idea of reducing the footprint of burning fossil fuels moving books from publisher to warehouse to store and then to the buyer’s home.

Libraries have made the transition to offering ebooks, which is important, but they need to vision a day when paper printed books are a rarity, and sooner than most think.

So libraries have to grow beyond books to be relevant.

There needs to be a children’s playroom, as there is in Yorkton, so the place becomes an option for moms to get out of the house.

But as the children play and read, mom needs to be able to have a coffee and bagel too. If libraries aren’t ready to pour the coffee and butter the bagels themselves, they should make room for a private contractor to take on that role.

And, in a fireside room like the one added in renovations, a beer, or wine in this area is an idea that has its merits too.

It’s not too far to envision an acoustic guitarist some evenings either, as the library needs to offer entertainment.

The library needs to have options beyond books too, chess and checkers and backgammon boards to use, they need to look to become the centre of adult learning, how to crochet or carve ducks, a role once the prevue of regional colleges but long ago abandoned as local colleges evolved.

These things will mean a library open most evenings, not just one, so it can become more of a community gathering spot for education, entertainment and yes reading.

A library must be about knowledge and recreation and that will need to take the facility far beyond books in the near future, or they will risk fading away like the ring of a fax machine, or the clip-pity-clop of the horse drawn carriage.



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