Position paper 4

Position paper 4: The 21st century library

James Siddall

March 2010

What modernizing changes need to occur in the 21st century library? Perhaps the books need to be ditched and replaced with new shiny digital records and interactive touch screens. Shall we no longer use our inside voices and turn a quiet reading space into a public gathering center? Or maybe the city could develop a new type of museum filled with “ancient” printed text behind enclosed glass cases for the new generations to understand a time passed.  What if no changes are needed? Are things fine the way they are? These are some of the topics and questions that our two librarian guest speakers attempted to address two Fridays ago, on March the 12th.

Chris Koth, who works at the newly developed North Vancouver Lonsdale Library, started by touching upon how his particular branch was implementing new features and changes such as e-books.  However, he focused mostly on whom the Lonsdale Library caters to, with a focal point being meeting the needs of the large immigrant population without access to computers.  Chris also pointed out that books are still first in demand, which I found interesting (and slightly reassuring), dampening the rumor that print is passé.  Although Mr. Koth’s talk was interesting, much of it was concerned with the needs of North Vancouver residents, which is a group I am not among.  I found that what he had to say was concerned with less of the 21st century library and revolved more around his clientele, which left the talk sounding a bit like a sales pitch.

Our classes’ other guest was George Villavicencio who, with video clips from the movies Time Machine and Star Wars, won me over straight away.  Everybody knows that students always revel in popular culture moments during class time.  That along with free cookies and coffee turns a Friday afternoon English class in to a party.  Alas, the clips ended in what felt like seconds, my cookies were in my stomach and the talk began.  Nevertheless it wasn’t all bad.  Mr. Villavicencio is quite an eloquent speaker and is fun to hear get passionate about his work.  George was particularly excited about the Capilano University Library’s future plans to move all books and documents upstairs, leaving the ground floor open for gathering with peers and acquiring assistance from tech support and writing centers. In addition, he wanted to keep a balance of print and technological gear, supplying the demand of everyone’s needs.

I feel this is the type of change that is required to ensure the 21st century library continues to hold a prominent role in society.  The modern library must encompass both the old and new, combining books with computers and study with social activity.  By doing this, each branch can serve as a link: connecting the population to whatever information or service that may be required.  In this way libraries can stay relevant to all walks of life, be it old or young, bookworm or social butterfly. If this goal can be achieved nobody has a need to fret. The books will on the shelves and the computers will be hooked up, ready for facebook.

Word count: 534

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