It’s a great time to be a librarian.
There was a time not so long ago that many people were questioning the future of libraries. With the advent of the Internet, the argument went, libraries would become obsolete. Of course, for those old enough to remember, the same argument was made when microfiche was the new thing. Through it all, libraries have emerged stronger and more entrenched in our community fabric than ever.
Libraries have survived by recognizing social trends and embracing change. When ebook technology became a real possibility, libraries were among the first to work with publishers in promoting this new technology and ensuring widespread access to it. When the Internet started to become the go-to source for current information, we changed how we acquire and maintain reference and non-fiction collections, and made sure that everybody in our communities could access the new technology.
When we talk about the future of libraries nowadays, it is about much more than information and books. Libraries today are deeply involved in community and economic development, in advocating idea creation and small business incubation, in supporting the emergent maker culture, in promoting physical health and environmental sustainability, and more. We work with vulnerable populations, and develop services and expertise around early childhood development. We have transformed the library space from collections of resources to places that support learning and collaboration in all of its manifestations.
Of course, when I say “we”, I am professing to speak for a broad range of public libraries. In reality, here at Creston Valley Public Library, we have a long way to go in embracing the broader social changes that are taking over even our little mountain town. It is time that we start talking about what our library of the future looks like, and this process is going to start now.
Over the coming months, the library board and I are going to challenge you to think beyond your conception of what the library is now to what the library could be and must be to support the future needs of our community. How will people of all ages learn in the future? In what ways do you see our community growing and developing? How are you and your family going to be impacted by current economic, social and technological trends?
What you tell us will be encapsulated in a new strategic plan for the library, and will become my work plan for the next several years. I’d like to make one promise to you: While I may challenge you to think beyond what you may think the library has been or should be, the final plan will be yours. It will be made by and for the residents of Creston and Regional District of Central Kootenay areas A, B, and C, not based on what some library in Edmonton, New York or Nelson might be doing.
And if all you really want is the next volume of the George Martin Game of Thrones series, we’d love to hear from you too.
Aaron Francis is the chief librarian at Creston Valley Public Library. He is currently reading This Dark Road To Mercy by Wiley Cash.