April 1999

The Trustee communicates issues affecting libraries and library services. Once a library and systems join LTA, all their trustees automatically receive this quarterly publication published by LTA. To learn more about membership in LTA, Click Here.

President's Memo (Space Odyssey)

By Parry Teasdale, NYSALB President

April 1999 issue of Trustee

Lots of libraries suffer from a chronic lack of space, a situation exacerbated by the arrival of public access Internet computers. (You DO have public access Internet terminals, don't you?!)

But what if the problem libraries faced was what to do with too MUCH space rather than too little? Not possible, you say? Don't be too certain.

Over and over we've been assured the future of the book will be much like its past. It's already become a cliche that you can't curl up in bed (or the tub, or the hammock...) with a computer. That attitude assumes computers look like the laptop I'm using to write this: a box the size of a small dictionary, half of which is a keyboard. But think instead of a slab of plastic the size and weight of slim novel. The front displays bright, crisp text. You flip pages with a button on the spine. If you read yourself to sleep (spouses take note), you don't need a night light. And this e-book can hold the text and pictures for three or more books at once, each easily erased and replaced.

Now imagine your library lends these e-books, with patrons downloading from a collection far larger than your library could afford to purchase in paper. How much shelf space would you need then?

Science fiction? Nope. E-books are already on the market. They're relatively expensive at the moment - around $400 for the machine, not including the contents. But the price will drop as demand grows.

You needn't worry that the traditional paper book will disappear any time soon. More books were published last year than ever before. But how we gain access to the written word is in the midst of a momentous change, with our libraries caught right in the middle. Not convinced? Then how about the public library in Woodstock, which just began offering its patrons a huge database of periodicals; anyone with a Woodstock library card and a computer can access the database from home or office. In other words, Woodstock patrons don't have to visit their library to read these publications (which aren't even physically stored at the library).

Like the book, our public libraries don't face extinction. What we risk is sliding into irrelevance. The way to prevent this is to adapt to the challenge of technology. And one way to adapt is for each board of trustees to make certain its library provides adequate space for all patron activities. We must also make certain our library is fully accessible and inviting to every member of the community. I'm not talking about shelf space; I'm talking about people space.

The state Regents, through their Libraries 2000 funding initiative, and the New York Library Association's more ambitious Books, Bricks & Bytes proposal call for a multi-million dollar state investment in library construction. NYSALB strongly endorses these proposals, and we urge you to contact your state representatives to express your support.

A few years hence, the services we render may look remarkably different from the books and tapes Internet access we offer today. These changes underscore the central importance of public libraries in our information age. We must impress upon lawmakers the continuing need for buildings accessible to every citizen of New York State, buildings that accommodate all types of library functions - even ones so new we can't yet fully define their shape.

Copyright © 2010-2018 Prominence Solutions     |     Development & Hosting by Prominence Solutions     |     Site Map