Future of libraries: Baking cakes at the library? | SierraSun.com

Future of libraries: Baking cakes at the library?

Pam McAdoo
Special to the Sun

At a May 2014 conference at the Library of Congress, librarians and library support organizations met to discuss the future of the venerable institution of libraries.

During the discussion, participant Joel Garreau, who has been described as "a student of culture, values and change," noted that "the more we digitize, the higher the value of what we can't digitize."

What does that mean? Maryland's Charles County Public Library answered that question with a solution specific to their community: They assembled a collection of cake pans available to loan.

Library staff discovered that it was unexpectedly easy to put together the collection: Many people had duplicate cake pans and pans they no longer used, and were delighted to donate them to the budding library collection.

The next problem was figuring out how to organize and display them for easy checkout. Librarians are nothing if not problem-solvers: Each pan was etched on the bottom with a number, and stored in a hanging bag. (Library staff advised patrons to wash them both before and after use.)

For the rollout of the collection, a library staff member baked cakes in the back room during the morning of the launch, filling the far reaches of the library with irresistible aromas.

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But one important question remained: Wa anyone interested?

The answer was a definitive "yes." Within 10 days, over half the pans had been checked out, and many volumes in the collection of cake-decorating and baking books had been plucked from the shelves.

As libraries look for ways to offer what their communities need and want, both digitally and in the physical world, they continue to come up with inventive and unexpected ideas.

At the same Library of Congress conference, Dr. Renu Khator, President of University of Houston, emphasized that, "… libraries (of the future) must look outward; libraries are about experience, not books; libraries are about place; libraries are about communities of learning; libraries are about focus. Above all… libraries must be open, flexible, and innovative."

However unlikely, loaning cake pans satisfies most of Dr. Khator's goals.

Pam McAdoo is a board member of the Friends of the Truckee Library. Visit truckeefol.org to learn more.

Editor’s note

This is the seventh in a series of articles exploring the varied ways that public libraries are continuing to reinvent their services and facilities in order to respond to technological innovation and the specific needs and populations of the communities they serve.

Click here to read part one of the series.

Click here to read part two of the series.

Click here to read part three of the series.

Click here to read part four of the series.

Click here to read part five of the series.

Click here to read part six of the series.