Congress theme: “Libraries beyond libraries: Integration, Innovation and Information for all”

Courage and optimism: driving forces for the future of libraries

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Report on Session 123 — Rethinking the role of public libraries — Public Libraries Section with Metropolitan Libraries

The public library faces many challenges, particularly in the competition for people’s attention by ever more prevalent electronic and mobile technologies. These challenges must not be perceived as threats; instead, they can (and must) be turned into opportunities to transform the library into a multifaceted service that respond to patrons’ varied needs and interests.

Survival of the library into the 21st century hinges on remaining as a relevant and vital presence in the lives of people. A common misconception is that libraries are less needed in an increasingly electronic world. How can libraries retain their pertinence?  The panelists in this session expounded on the need to change the focus from the transaction to the user. A key to success when designing new offerings is community participation through consultations with current and potential users. As a result, the community generates ideas and the staff facilitates implementation. Changes must be considered not only in terms of services but also in space planning, collections and acquisitions and organizational structures.

Making changes requires courage, especially when the changes require a paradigm shift and may not be immediately popular with administration and staff. Changes also require optimism, a guiding vision of a bright future where the library continues to be at the center of social development, responding with ever-evolving services and technologies to the needs of the community.