The Library: Kitchen or grocery store? [UPDATED]Published 7:54am Thursday, June 28, 2012 Updated 12:00pm Thursday, June 28, 2012
On Thursday, June 21, between 40 and 50 community members took part in community conversations about the Fergus Falls Public Library and the future. Each session kicked-off with a brief overview of some of the challenges (and opportunities) facing the library, like limited programming space, a crowded children’s area, the barely there teen space, and the increasing importance of providing technology access and instruction at the library.
Then, four members of the Minnesota Library Futures Initiative who are a group of librarians tasked with envisioning the library of 2025, discussed future demographic and technological trends like an aging and increasingly diverse Minnesota population, the fast pace of technological innovation, and the rise in importance of being a lifelong learner, and their impact on library services.
The last 45 minutes of each session consisted of a facilitated discussion led by the library futurists. The stage for the conversations was set by the following potential future scenario:
“In 2025, patrons come to the library to create content and try out the latest technology. Libraries are designed to accommodate new and ever changing technologies and a large portion of each library’s annual budget is devoted to investing in new technologies and in platforms to publicly share local creations.
“Library staff are early adopters of new technology and are looked at as experts in this area for advice and hands-on assistance. Although some of the tools library staff invest time and money on will be short-lived fads, patrons appreciate the library’s/librarians’ willingness to try new things and allow patrons to try them, too.”
The futurists then asked the following question, “What in this scenario caught your attention?”
Many participants in both sessions were intrigued by the notion of the library as a place to “create content.” In Library Land, we call this the kitchen concept.
Libraries have traditionally acted more like a grocery store. You come in, pick up content (i.e. books, movies, etc.), check it out, leave, and repeat.
These days, though, there has been a bit of a sea change in the way consumers interact with content. Think Wikipedia, self-publishing, making an iMovie or a podcast. Now, in addition to being information consumers, we’ve become information creators and sharers, more than ever before.
And libraries can and do play a role in information creation as well as information dissemination.
However, many participants also indicated that, although they liked the idea of more access to technology at the library, they also valued the traditional services and role the library plays as a “grocery store,” i.e. providing access to books and programs focused on literacy and education, like preschool storytimes, author visits and educational lectures.
Many of these participants also look to the library and librarians for quality information and assistance with in-depth research.
So, the kitchen or the grocery store? Well, maybe the right answer for the Fergus Falls Public Library is a bit of both.
Thanks again to those community members who took the time on a beautiful, busy summer day to come out and voice your thoughts and opinions. For those who were unable to attend, the conversations were recorded and are airing on PEG Access.
And, as always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the kitchen or grocery store concept too. Feel free to give me a call at 739-9387 or stop by the library and we’ll chat.
Erin Smith is the Director at the Fergus Falls Public Library