Like Newspapers, Are Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

A Large Towering Stack of Intimidating Books

As a small child in the farm town of Hillsboro, Oregon, I remember riding my bike past what was an old brick building that was our town’s library. I didn’t have much use for libraries in those early years as our school provided its own library for us, and sponsored a competition as to who could read the most books. But one day with curiosity I entered our town’s library and was greeted with an old, dusty, musty smell. The floors were made of unpainted wood and slightly creaked under my feet. The noise caused a seemingly stern lady sitting at the front desk to look up at me and barely cracked a smile, as she said nothing.

As intimidating as my opening experience was, I pretended to know what I was doing and walked past her into a large towering stack of books that looked back at me as if to say, “We know more than you, and you don’t have the time to read all of us, let alone just one of us!” I looked around at this somewhat scary place, and thought it was best I get back to a more comfortable place – like my bike. Since then and some years later, I have spent hours in libraries doing research as a physician. Those towering bookcases often remain, but are more and more replaced with the digital search engines!

Evolution of a “Smart” Library

Not too long ago I enjoyed a tour of the new Laramie County Library in Cheyenne, Wyoming given by my niece, Avery. She showed us a “smart,” state-of-the-art facility that not only had the traditional stacks of books. But it also had rooms filled with computers, smaller rooms with elevated seating to read to young kids, toys on which to play that had associated learning devices, and special rooms for adults and even teenagers. Even an automated system was developed with a conveyor belt for easy book return. Wow!

Avery was proud of what the people of Cheyenne had created, and she was thrilled to be a part of its operation. Whereas newspapers continue to struggle, many libraries are reinventing themselves as community service centers. If you are a center of learning, shouldn’t being a service center come as a natural thought? What should a library look like in 20 years? In 50 years? Newspapers are engaging the Internet, but still struggle. Libraries engage the Internet and flourish with it!

Engaging Innovation and Technology

Watching the Cornelius Public Library in Oregon advance into a new “smart” service organization with learning at the center gives one a true sense of joy. Groundbreaking took place in 2017 and development of this new facility not unlike the new Laramie County Library in Cheyenne, Wyoming has been planned. Having an infectious excitement as demonstrated by the Director of the Library, Karen Hill, has moved the fundraising component into a library reality.

This new construction will have something for everyone regardless of age. The entrance has an art wall planned to give the viewer a calming, welcoming collection of images. And the Community Room will serve as host to all kinds of meetings for years to come. Coming together as a group to hear, to learn, to debate, to become knowledgeable is the chosen component of this library that gives the Walters Family Foundation pride to support.

Libraries obsolete? Naw . . . don’t think so. Love to see libraries engaging innovation and creativity that along with technology serves their diverse people in new learning styles! Newspapers? Not so sure . . .