What does the future hold for libraries?
Special to the Sun
This is the first 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.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Photographer Robert Dawson calls libraries “the repository of civic memory.” His recent book, “The Public Library” from Princeton Architectural Press, is a compilation of images of libraries, which he made during two road trips across the country with his son.
From a stunning image of a hanging artwork made of books and butterflies by Ralph Helmich and Stu Schechter which spans three stories in the Salt Lake City Public Library, to the tiny Tulare County Free Library in Allensworth, Calif., which has the feel of an old one-room schoolhouse, the photographs show the beloved public library in its many guises across the nation.
During the 18 years he spent documenting public libraries, Dawson witnessed the reinvention of public libraries, as their focus has shifted from books to computers, technology, and local communities.
So how do public libraries keep up with the changing pace of technological advances and continue to remain relevant in their communities? Libraries across the nation and the world have been creatively reinventing themselves in response to this question.
Although it was established over 30 years ago, Berkeley, California’s Tool Lending Library remains as useful as it was when it opened with 500 tools and one employee.
Funded by a $30,000 federal Community Development Block Grant, the TLL opened in a portable trailer to provide tools and information to the residents of south and west Berkeley.
Two thousand dollars in seed money purchased a collection of home repair and how-to books housed next door at the South Branch Library.
Under the terms of the grant, the service was free to residents of low and moderate income in south and west Berkeley neighborhoods. Other Berkeley residents paid $.50 to $3 per tool.
Since then, Berkeley voters have passed a property-based library tax, and the TTL is now included in the Library system’s operating budget.
The service is now free to all Berkeley residents and people who own property in Berkeley, and the collection has grown to include over 3,500 tools, which are overseen and maintained by three part-time tool-lending specialists.
To round out the tool-lending service, the South Branch Library’s collection of how-to books has expanded to include videos and DVDS. The tools, each with its own barcode, are listed in the online library catalogue where they may be renewed and reserved.
TLL does not carry “gas-powered or powder-actuated” tools, but does lend tools such as extension cords, hedge trimmers, demolition hammers, electric snakes, ladders, cement mixers, hand trucks, pipe threaders, circular saws, sanders, table saws, drills, wheelbarrows and post hole diggers.
Pam McAdoo is a board member of the Friends of the Truckee Library. Visit truckeefol.org to learn more.