Thinking Ahead: The Public Library’s Future

I know the Internet is pretty saturated with articles about this right now.  I’ve seen some variation on the phrase “remain relevant” at least four times this week alone in various blogs and professional publications.  But our director has asked each department to come up with ways for our library to continue to provide the services and facilities that will best serve our customers both now and in the future.  Following my department’s meeting, I sat down and made a list of things I’ve seen or read about at other libraries that I think would be successful here.  I won’t bog you down with the whole list (though if you’d like me to send it to you, let me know in the comments section), but here are a few of the highlights.
  1. Genre shelving.  I love the Dewey Decimal System as much as the next librarian.  I have the call numbers memorized for the auto repair manuals, the cookbooks, and the marketing guides.  But how many people come to the desk looking for the 600s?  (For that matter, how many of them even know what the 600s are?)  Nearly everyone who is new to the area comes in asking where the mysteries are, or the fantasy section, or the romance books.  One could argue that in academia Dewey still has its place, but especially as public libraries are becoming the replacement for bricks-and-mortar bookstores as places to browse for pleasure reading, we need to arrange our materials in a way that makes sense to our patrons.
  2. Highlighting our digital collections more outside the library.  A recent Library Journal article discussed library branches opening in Kansas airports which included QR codes that travelers could scan to access digital titles on their eReaders, tablets, or smartphones.  Another article earlier this year covered a partnership between the library and the public transit system in Philadelphia with similar QR codes and the option for those without library cards to get a free trial membership on-the-spot (which they could later extend by providing proof of address at a library branch).  We’re not an urban library, and we don’t have any major airports or transit systems (there are public buses, but most people drive everywhere), but I like this idea of highlighting digital collections outside the library.  The fact that you can check out a book instantly without going to the library is one of the main appeals of electronic collections.  So I thought of some other places people may want that instant reading material, like waiting rooms in doctor’s offices and hospitals.  If someone’s waiting for an appointment, why not display a QR code linking to the library’s free magazines?  They may be more interesting than the six-month-old People sitting on the coffee table.  What about auto repair shops, coffee shops, or cafes?  I think digital collections have a lot more potential for us to meet people where they are and draw in new patrons.
  3. Creating a community display area.  Currently, staff create all the displays in our library, and the only bulletin board is in the staff lounge.  I’ve read about other libraries that allow community artists to sign up or apply for monthly or quarterly exhibits featuring their work.  And I’d like to see a community bulletin board where local organizations can advertise upcoming events.  The board could also be used as another way to engage patrons with things like magnetic poetry, mystery quotes, and so on.  I’d really like to see our space engaging our patrons more than it currently is.

I think that’s enough for this week.  Like I said, if you want the whole list, let me know!  And if you have any ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them.

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