Today’s libraries face challenges

When I was growing up, my parents bought a set of Compton’s Encyclopedias that were proudly displayed in our living room. They were our source of information for projects in both elementary and secondary school.
Annually, a paid for year book arrived with updated information. It went on for more than a decade.
Our elementary school had two or three different sets of encyclopedias to search for information. The biggest set was the Britannica series that came in both a junior and senior version.
The elementary school had both a senior and junior library. In high school, the library was much bigger and when doing projects, you probably could access one or two other books for reference.
Those who were more ambitious also would go to the Fort Frances Public Library because the collection of books was much larger.
And by using those books, it showed initiative to your teacher, who often rewarded you with more marks because you had sought reference material beyond school.
Today, in many ways, libraries have become warehouses for books. Current information can be found in more locations using the computer than anyone can imagine.
The most common place to gain quick information is from Wikipedia.
In a recent experiment, the Hoover Institution sought information on 100 U.S. history book topics and used the Google search engine. Wikipedia articles were first 87 times.
What is troubling about Wikipedia, though, is that just about anyone can post facts and information on topics to the site. Not all of it is accurate or truthful.
But a recent review found it to have fewer mistakes than the Encyclopedia Britannica.
It may be that in the future, residents anywhere in the area will log onto the library site, asking for a librarian to help them search and find information on the web.
Instead of guiding a reader to a bookcase, the library user will be guided to new information sites. It already is happening elsewhere.
In 1967, to celebrate Canada’s centennial, Fort Frances built an extension to the library that they hoped would meet the needs of the community for its next 100 years.
The goal was optimistic.
Then the library stored and distributed mostly books, magazines, and out-of-town newspapers. Long play records were not even part of the library’s collection then.
No one could foresee how libraries would evolve in the next 40 years.
Since then, records were added, which subsequently were replaced by cassettes and CDs. Movies were added, first 16mm, then VHS, and now DVDs.
In the mid-1990s, public access computers were made available for public use.
How do you design a library for the future? What are the things you have to place into the library to make it a social connecting hub where people don’t even have to be in the building to be part of the group.
How do you set up a library so that someone from home can get help in researching a topic?
What does the library have to do so that residents of Fort Frances, through the local public library, can access medical and academic research journals, law reviews, and museum documents held in libraries throughout the world.
And how do you build and staff a library to meet changing needs that even science fiction writers and futurists can’t fathom.
These are some of the challenges facing the new library—and those building libraries today.

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