It’s uncertain how technology will shape libraries in the future, but advocates say they’ll always be an important part of the community.
MidPointe Library begins today celebrating its centennial anniversary. For most of the past 100 years, libraries had been consistent in what it offered and how it was provided to the public. But technology has changed the face of the library’s service. It will continue to change it in ways no one without a crystal ball will know.
“I’m not sure what libraries may look like in 10 years let alone 100,” said Doug Evans, executive director of the Ohio Library Council, an organization that represents the interests of Ohio’s public libraries. “Technology is going to determine that significantly.”
Libraries in this country began populating cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in large part due to the $60 million donation by Andrew Carnegie which helped build 1,689 libraries — including MidPointe Library in Middletown when it opened in January 1913.
While the next 100 years is a mystery, MidPointe Library spokeswoman Cari Hillman would like to think the system will be around for another 100 years and beyond.
“We are a modern, changing library. We bring you more than just books,” she said. “But libraries are evolving into a community meeting area, a technology hub. Libraries change with the times.”
Public libraries will need to adapt to the ever-changing technology and the proliferation of downloadable material while balancing the traditional collections users still want, Evans said. But the facilities of the future will need to adapt to those changing needs of library patrons and the community.
“Digital content doesn’t take up any shelf space, but the library facilities are still needed in the communities around the state because of the desire to have meeting space,” Evans said. “We’re seeing library facilities change as the result of changing needs and changing technology.”
He touted MidPointe’s West Chester Twp. branch, which opened in 2010 replacing its antiquated and small branch, “is an example of how to best to use a library facility if it meets the needs of the community.”
Though the way libraries conduct its business will change, the core mission of literacy will be a part of the library, Hillman said.
“When we started 100 years ago, the folks that worked to establish this library could have never imagined we would have the kind of materials, the kinds of programming that we have today,” she said. “You might always be able to get books here, quite possibly. I’d like to think so.”
Friends of the MidPointe Library President John Mueller said while he doesn’t have any idea the direction of the library will head when it celebrates its bicentennial, it “will forever be a vital part of this community.”
“We’re probably going to change and morph into ways I can’t even begin go guess,” he said. “If you go out now, you can check out books of the library without ever touching a piece of paper.”
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