Sunday, September 19, 2010

Public libraries: Services and roles

“The mission of the public library is to meet the needs of its particular community” (43)
Libraries in the Information Age
by Denise K. Fourie and David R. Dowell
My public library contains historical resources specific to Lake County: copies of government ordinances, history books, etc. It also includes work by Lake County authors, many of whom have donated copies of their books to the library system.
“Libraries are neither cyber nor paper. They are both at the same time, and that is expensive in terms of resources, staff, and time” (44)
I treasure the tactile experience of reading books, magazines and newspapers. At the same time, other people prefer access to information via the Internet. The Internet is more and more a necessary tool for access and communication.

During my earliest use of the Internet, I made use of the library and computer labs at the Sonoma State University campus.

Today, I am more likely to place a hold for a book remotely, rather than through a catalog terminal that is physically at the library.

Libraries help bridge the digital divide for people who do not have access through their home or work. Internet stations at the Lakeport Library are always in use whenever I visit the library.
“Most public libraries emphasize reference service as one of their major roles” (47)
I pull as many as or more non­fiction requests than fiction requests each week. From among the non­fiction shelves of our public library, I am amazed by the variety of subjects that library patrons rely upon.
“Many libraries further serve the independent learning needs of their customers” (48)
My husband and I walk each year in the Vineyard Run for Literacy, which raises funds to support the adult literacy program at our local library. This is one of the most important events on our calendar. The money that we raise helps to provide adult learners with free one­-on­-one tutoring services that are offered through the Lake County Library.
“In trying to meet the needs of their underserved populations, libraries also design outreach services for persons who cannot get to a main or branch library” (48)
Lake County’s population is very geographically spread out, especially within one supervisorial district that is not served by a branch library. Historically, our county had bookmobile services and I'd like to see it brought back again.
“Many libraries have formed nonprofit Friends of the Library support groups” (49­50)
Our library has a very active and dedicated “Friends” group. I try to attend as many “Friends” book sales as I can; they are a source of great bargains and go toward a wonderful cause. The group is trying to recruit me and I’d gladly become more involved if not for prior commitments.
“These library staffing needs vary greatly depending upon the size of a library and its location” (51)
The libraries in Middletown and Lakeport are very different in size. The branch library in Middletown has a single employee, whereas the flagship library has many more employees.

Because it’s the main branch in our system, the Lakeport Library provides services to some of the other branches, i.e. preparing books into the catalog and then shipping them to the remote branches to be shelved.
“As libraries grow in size and complexity, their staff members tend to become more and more specialized in their responsibilities and their job classifications more distinct. Many of these staff members have advanced education ... in specialties other than library science” (51):
I feel uncomfortable at the prospect of too much specialization. I like the idea of working at a library where there is enough variety that I get exposed to more than one area of responsibility, where everyone is cross­-trained.

At the same time, I like the idea of people’s individual expertise coming into play and being allowed free reign; I fantasize about someday curating an authoritative library collection about autism spectrum disorders for adults who are on the spectrum.

My ideal library situation would blend day-­to­-day variety with the potential to use my expertise.
“There should be openings for those seeking jobs in public libraries in the next decade” (54)
I’m glad that the authors take such a positive tone about the outlook for employment. I really think that I would enjoy working in a library because I consider its mission an important one.

Composed for Cuesta College’s LIBT 101: Introduction to Library Services

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