07 May 2015

Understanding Libraries and Their Future

Librarians are genealogist's best friends, and it's a time of great change in the library world. Thinkin about that change is reflected for the UK situation in a podcast Libraries: the inside story – books podcast from The Guardian.

In the first 15 minutes is devoted to going behind the scenes of what happens when a book is ordered at the British Library. We're naturally curious to peek behind the curtains of systems that seem to work automagically. At the British Library you can get a book which may not have been read for decades in a matter of minutes. It would be desirable for Library and Archives Canada to aspire to that performance; in the meantime maybe they could devote a podcast to revealing the system behind their services.

The next major section of the podcast focuses on the Manchester library system. The part that caught my attention came at about 41 minutes when the staff member interviewed was asked about what's in the future.  The answer was to cite new co-location of a library with a leisure centre meaning it could remain open 90 hours a week with a shared reception desk with the leisure team.

"The vision is to put these centres in places where people are all over the city.We made a decision many years ago never to have another stand alone library and also to look at where our libraries are geographically located, we want the libraries to be in the heart of the district centre, ideally we want our libraries to have glazed frontage so people can see people engaging in activity and enjoying the library space and we want our libraries as far as possible to be co-located so we can have that cross-fertilization of audiences and attract people who would not normally go into a library."
The final section of the podcasr, starting at 42:30 minutes is a panel discussion. One comment that caught my attention in the context of the proposal for a new Ottawa Central Library relates to the new Birmingham Library;
"That building cost 180 something million pounds to build, and it costs 10 million pounds a year to run, that's a lot of money to come out of a local authority budget. It's a giantist approach, I don't think it works. It's a complete white elephant. What libraries ought to be is much closer to ordinary people where they are. We need smaller libraries, you can transport books so easily these days, you can transport then electronically as well as physically.You don't need to have very large libraries with very large stocks. What you need is somewhere where people want to use it and its pleasant to use."

1 comment:

Jean said...

In comparison, the Vancouver library system comprises 22 branches, including the flagship Central branch downtown which houses the bulk of the collections used for research (genealogy, special collections, legal reference, etc.). Many of the neighbourhood branches are part of, or next door to, City-owned/operated recreation centres, including the Carnegie branch housed in the city's original library building; one branch is uniquely attached to a firehall. Most of the branches also feature large windows to allow lots of natural light inside, and encourage passersby to come on in.