On libraries, Las Vegas and Elvis

by Donna Riordan

Orcas Island Public Library Trustee and Vice President

Who knew that Elvis was a convincing 3-D printer pitchman?

In late June, I attended the American Library Association meeting in Las Vegas along with 18,000 other library lovers – librarians, trustees, and library friends from public, private and academic libraries.

I went as a library trustee through a travel grant awarded by United for Libraries, a sub-group of library trustees, foundations, and “Friends.” I met library directors, staff, trustees, friends, and exhibitors of a wide array of goods and services and saw Elvis in action.

As we plan the library’s expansion, I wanted to find out about trends in library use, community expectations, funding and programming.

Here’s what I learned:

•Libraries are still important as free, democratic, and open-to-all civic institutions. Your love, support, and use of the library are consistent with best practices across the nation.

• Libraries are changing. Although books and printed information continue to be and will remain important, with the increase and diversity of digital information, patrons need and want  access to it.

Public libraries now make many kinds of media, such as E-books, WiFi, and computers freely available to read, to work, to access online references and to request interlibrary loans, etc.

•Libraries are becoming important community centers. As public budgets are increasingly restricted, patrons of all ages use libraries to learn about health, social services, employment and education.

•Librarians’ skills and expertise are expanding to serve patrons’ needs. Librarians’ skills now include the ability to accommodate patrons’ needs for information and enable effective use of technology.

•Library programming is expanding. Providing information remains the library’s core mission, but increasingly there are innovative and well-executed programs to serve all age groups. For example: early-learning programming focuses on pre-kindergarten children before formal schooling begins; teen and young adult programming engages curious youth in creative activities not available in school such as writing, performing, and filming their own ideas in creative teams during the summer or through the school year; and open/free public lectures provide access to authors and others with interesting ideas who love to meet “readers” who enjoy their work.

•Library “Friends” groups are really important. As many library budgets are stressed, donations and volunteerism of “Friends” groups enable new, free programming and fund other direct costs that aren’t covered by public funds.

• Libraries link people with their communities. Patrons who may feel isolated from others in our fast-paced technological world, or who choose to live a quieter life while seeking interaction with their communities, use the library as a meeting and gathering place.

What this means for your library is that it is at the vanguard of a new wave of excitement about and commitment to public libraries. The expansion building project, Building the Future:  Books and Beyond, matches these trends: it will expand and strengthen your library’s capacity to excel as your community’s social, cultural, and intellectual center.

Join us at the Orcas Library on Saturday, July 19 from noon – 2:30 p.m. for an ice cream social, and learn more about the expansion.