Taking Action to stay relevant

For most of us, the library is a place that is avoided unless given an express reason to go. Whether it be to study, find research materials or attend an event, there is typically something that has to spur us into action before we will set foot in a library.

While libraries are safe havens for stressed out students who need a relatively quiet place to sit down and do work, they are also not often the first choice of destination on any college students list. However, some campus and public libraries are looking to change this stigma surrounding libraries.

The Alachua County Public Library Department has dozens of plans in motion to encourage students and residents to visit some of their locations. Events like Fandamonium and meet and greets with popular authors are just a few examples of these plans, according to Nickie Kortus, Marketing and PR director for the Alachua County Library District.

Local libraries aren’t the only ones taking action to bring in more visitors, campus libraries are constantly updating and changing to encourage students continued patronage. While the initiatives taken by campus libraries are more intended to keep students happy and coming, they are just as notable, and can be seen in upgrades like the 3D printing lab and more frequently used social media pages.

“I usually just go to one of the university libraries if I need to study or work on an assignment,” Kasey Rolen, a sophomore Healthcare Education Major at the University of Florida said, “But if they had an interesting event, and I wasn’t too busy, I would definitely check it out.”

Events pop up in and around the libraries on campus all the time, whether it’s a Starbucks food truck, offering free samples of their preciously caffeinated beverages; or a banned books week display, featuring all of the books deemed too inappropriate to be stocked in certain libraries. These events are meant to draw students to the libraries and to give them a well earned (or not so well earned) break from their studies.

While the necessity of libraries on university campuses and in public locations is undeniable, it’s a nice change of pace to see them trying to lighten the atmosphere and give patrons a reason to actually want to visit their local library. Even though most students would still visit the library without these events, it’s a good thing to see the libraries care about their visitors perception of them.

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Libraries for the next generation

Contrary to what many of us believe, libraries were present in our lives before we entered college, though in a somewhat different capacity. Think back to the libraries of our secondary schooling years, full of both resource books and the latest in fiction best sellers. The libraries that were often home to the annual scholastic book fair and to your schools computer lab.

These are the libraries that taught us the basic skills of computing; how to save, print and type; all things we now may think we’ve known since birth. While many collegiate libraries are focused on providing newer and better resources for us to use for research purposes, these libraries are focused on teaching you how to do research.

According to Bronwyn Main, head librarian at Joseph L . Carwise Middle School the technology gap existing for adolescents is very real.

“Students may be more exposed to technology, but they continue to struggle with basic technology skills like typing and being safe online,” Main said, “I tell my staff to never assume our students know something related to technology.”

While developing the basic skills of using technology and the internet safety are a huge part of the job of middle school librarians, they are still looking to develop new and interactive ways of incorporating technology into student’s daily lives.

“I would love to have an interactive screen where students can incorporate coding and gaming into projects that they are working on,” Main said, “I am also continuing to purchase more eBooks and audiobooks for students to read on mobile devices.”

While public school libraries are often home to a series of computers, many of us don’t remember the libraries of our youth for their technologically advanced states. For most of us, the library from our middle school years was a place where we would go to check out our next Judy Bloom book or look for the next book on our Battle of the Books list.

As these libraries do progress and work towards modernization through technology, they do not stray as far from their paper bound roots as their college-aged counterparts have. It is the responsibility of librarians like Bronwyn Main to weed through sites like Goodreads.com and student suggestions to find books that are relevant, popular and appropriate for the demographic they cater to.

Technology in the Library

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Marston science library, home to UFs 3D printer among other library advancements. Photo taken by Jamie Shapiro

As most of us know, a modern academic library more a place to sit with our laptops out while we do online research and check Facebook on the down low. Most of us don’t go to the library to check out books or spend some honest time with the microfiche machine. So if this is the case, how are libraries adapting to fit their new purposes?

Of course there’s the obvious, the instillation of outlets and USB plug ins at many of the library desks and work spaces. There’s the instillation of computer equipped study rooms and and even a fully functional 3D printer that always seems to be printing something, but what else is coming? How are libraries going to adapt to fit the needs of a technology obsessed demographic?

University of Florida Academic Librarian Rachel Elrod believes the future of libraries lies in these adaptations and how we as students are taught to use them. As a member of the Library Leadership and Management Association Assessment Committee, Elrod is devoted to keeping up the relevance of libraries in the midst of the current technological revolution.

“We deal with students,” said Elrod, “We help them to find the resources they need, while also analyzing their choices so that we can provide more useful resources in the future.”

Libraries have adapted physically to accommodate our electronic baggage, but according to Elrod the real development is happening online. Our libraries provide us with access to online resources that many students don’t even know are available to us. Websites like Lynda.com and resources like eBook files of texts we may need for class are all available to us at the click of our trackpads.

With so much going on online, campus libraries and librarians are constantly adapting, looking for the latest online resources and technological updates. One major perk of being an academic librarian is that travel is a constant in your yearly schedule, according to Elrod. Librarians must travel to an assortment of national committee meetings across the country, during which they are typically given access to the latest innovations in library furniture, furniture like those fancy tables in the basement of Marston Science Library with a place for you to plug in your laptop charger and your iPhone charger at the same time.

With so much happening in the world of technology, Libraries may certainly sound archaic to us. However, these institutions are a staple in our lives as students. Libraries provide us with an endless list of resources, both physically and digitally and they are constantly growing and changing to meet the challenge of our constantly updating technology.

Public Relations in the library

 

For many people, public libraries are a fond remembrance of childhood, somewhere we went to read the latest R.L. Stine book and get our summer reading for middle school done. In these remembrances, we rarely recall who was in charge, save for the disembodied shush that would emanate from behind the main desk where the librarians sat.

As it turns out, these librarians had a job other than shushing rowdy preteens in the summer reading section. Being a librarian in a public library is actually a pretty major responsibility Nickie Kortus, Marketing and PR Manager for the Alachua County Library District, said.

A librarian’s job includes providing information services to patrons, organizing the libraries materials, understanding and implementing the libraries policies and having an immense knowledge of bibliographic, reference and database use, Kortus said. Librarians must also aide in budget preparation, creation of library research, reports, proposals and statistics, Kortus said.

Becoming a librarian isn’t such an easy task either, Kortus said. The absolute minimum requirement to be a librarian in the Alachua County Library District is a master’s degree in Library or Information science from a school accredited by the American Library Association, Kortus said.

But it’s dealing with people that makes the job worth it, Kortus said. Alachua County Libraries host over 300 programs per month, that range from one on one technology tutorials to the upcoming Fandomonium, which will be celebrating its third year in April, Kortus said.

“My personal favorite as a library staff person is watching children get excited selecting their own books after enjoying a story or puppet show,” Kortus laughed.

A big issue with libraries in the past decade or so has been whether or not technology will render them obsolete, Kortus said. However, libraries currently play a major role in bridging the digital divide, by providing internet access to all citizens and teaching them how to use it resourcefully, Kortus said.

“Library spaces are now designed to accommodate more computer workstations and places for people to work on their laptops or mobile devices,” Kortus said.

There are also plans for the near future for the addition of early learning computers, Kortus said. These computers would allow children aged 2-8 to learn computer skills through the use of educational games, Kortus said.

Specially created teen spaces will also be added in the near future, equipped with materials that will encourage teens to hang out, play games, study and read, Kortus said. In the past year the Library district purchased 64 concurrent use Minecraft educational licenses, allowing them to offer the popular building game on their new fiber optic internet service.