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Rapid development of information technologies, especially Internet and various social changes contributed to the decline of public library usage in the United States and many other countries (Goulding 2006, p. 112). This trend urges these organizations to improve their practices and find new ways of attracting visitors.
This paper is aimed at describing an imaginary public library that will serve the needs of a middle-sized city with a population of 150,000 people. In particular, it is necessary to identify the major services that it will provide. Secondly, this essay will explain how this institution will cooperate with other public libraries and governmental structures. Thirdly, one has to explain the principles that will govern this organization.
One should note that this organization will operate in the environment which does not yet exist. This means that this institution will not have to face budgetary constraints as it is often done by public libraries. Secondly, it will work in the environment in which the government fully appreciates the educational importance of such organizations and supports them.
The services provided by the public library
First, we should say that this organization will be a part of a large library system. The thing is that such networking enables libraries to better share resources and information (Wilson 1992, p. 166). It is particularly important when we speak about books or periodicals.
Secondly, these institutions will able to share information about user’s most common requests. As it has been said before, this organization will work in a middle-sized city. Its population will have various educational, informational, and developmental needs and this library will serve these needs.
At this point, it is necessary to speak about these functions in more detail. First of all, this public library will support those people who pursue their education. In this case, one can mention school, college, or university students and those people who want to acquire new knowledge in their professional area (McClure & Jaeger 2009, p. 50).
The readers of this library will represent various age groups. They will be able to find literature related to their areas of study. Admittedly, this organization cannot be compared to a research library in which a collection is focused on one or two specific subjects. The books and articles stored in this public library will be related to a variety of scientific disciplines or liberal arts.
Another type of services will be related to the informational needs of the clients. These needs can very heterogeneous, and it is rather difficult to identify each of them. The readers must be provided access to a variety of printed and online sources of information. The staff of this library will also help clients develop their information literary skills.
In other words, these visitors must know how to access and evaluate various sources of information and assess their validity (Roman& Fiore 2010, p. 27). This issue is particularly important for children and adolescents. On the whole, these skills are indispensible for a modern person who has to cope with information overload. Thus, the employees of this public library must show not only where one can find information but also how it can be done.
Thirdly, this library will facilitate personal development of the readers. The visitors will be provided with access to various “works of imagination” which can include the best examples of the world literature and sometimes even cinematography or music (Dewe 2006, p. 18).
This is the practice adopted in many public libraries. In addition to that, this library will attempt to increase people’s awareness about health, law, environment, society, and so forth (Dewe 2006, p. 18). In this case, the developmental needs of an individual can be linked to the social problems faced by the community. So, these are some of the services that this library will offer to the clients.
There are several distinctive features of this organization that are worth discussing. For example, this library will have a multi-media collection. The clients will be able to request various printed sources, E-books, disks, or audiobooks. The use of multimedia can be of great importance to those people with disabilities, for example, with visual impairments (Barker 2011, p. 9).
This public library will attempt to provide opportunities for people, whose problems prevent them from reading printed sources of information. For example, it might be necessary to install screen readers on computers in order to help some of the visitors. This organization will try to pursue the policies of social inclusion, rather than exclusion.
The second aspect is that this functioning of this public library will be based on proper utilization of information technologies. For instance, this library will have a digitized catalog that will help the clients search for books or periodicals. Furthermore, the visitors will also be able to use various online databases. The information technologies will greatly improve the storage and retrieval of information (Carnegie & Abell 2009). They will be essential for the effective functioning of this organization.
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Another important peculiarity is the emphasis on self-service (Downes, 2010). The patrons of this library will not have to ask the permission of the librarian when they need to use Internet or when they have to check out books. On the whole, one can single out several things which are indispensible for the effective functioning of this organization, namely, multimedia sources, increased use of information technologies, and simplified procedures.
There are several rational for adopting these strategies. First, public libraries have to focus on the needs of the visitors rather than bureaucratic rules (Mathews 2009, p. 8).
Moreover, these organizations have to keep a close track of technological changes. Moreover, they must try to include every member of the community. This is why it is necessary to adopt the technologies which can help people with disabilities. However, this public library can have these resources only if the local authorities and government in general are willing to support them.
The cooperation with political and governmental structures
This organization will not be isolated from governmental or political structures. Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to create a public library that will be financially independent of the local or federal government. Therefore, to some extent, this institution will be accountable to governmental institutions, for example, the board of directors who represent the city council. As a rule, public libraries have to report and justify their expenses or explain the reasons for structural changes if they do occur (Koontz & Gubbin 2010, p. 24).
This governing body will be responsible for decisions related to the general strategy rather than daily operations, rather than daily operations. The main issue is that those people, who are on the board of directors, must be proficient in librarianship and the management of non-profit organization (Koontz & Gubbin 2010, p. 24).
If they do not have these skills, it is quite likely that the chief librarian and the directors will have significant disagreements. Hopefully, the administrators of this library will be more or less autonomous from political or governmental structures. This autonomy is indispensible for the effective management of this organization.
The second issue, which is also very important, is the political structure of the public library. It seems to me that such organizations must be able to distance themselves from politics.
Certainly, they should promote liberal or democratic values; however, they should not be strongly affected by the world of politics. Apart from that, this public library will be accountable to the community, in general. The management of this organization must explain how they can improve the experiences of the visitors and what efforts are made in order to achieve this goal.
Overall, the public library described in this paper can come into existence on condition that the federal and local governments decide to pay more attention to the needs of such institutions, especially when one is speaking about the funding of these organizations. This essay has described the key features that the public library should have.
Among them one can single out the adoption of multimedia, increased usage of information technologies, and simplified procedures. Although, this organization will be accountable to local government, its administrators will have a high degree of autonomy. Hopefully, the idea of such hypothetical library can be implemented in a real-life environment.
Barker, D. (2011). On The Outside Looking In: Public Libraries Serving Young People With Disabilities. Aplis, 24(1), 9-16.
Carnegie, T. M., & Abell, J. (2009). Information, Architecture, and Hybridity: The Changing Discourse of the Public Library. Technical Communication Quarterly, 18(3), 242-258.
Dewe, M. (2006). Planning public library buildings: concepts and issues for the librarian. London: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Downes, A. (2010). Putting readers first: frontline training in Victoria. Aplis, 23(4), 132-140.
Goulding, A. (2006). Public libraries in the 21st century: defining services and debating the future. NY: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Koontz, C. & Gubbin, B. (2010). IFLA public library service guidelines. London: Walter de Gruyter.
Matthews, J. (2009). The Customer-Focused Library: Re-Inventing the Library from the Outside-In. NY: ABC-CLIO.
McClure, C. & Jaeger, P. (2009). Public libraries and Internet service roles: measuring and maximizing Internet services. Washington: ALA Editions.
Roman, S., & Fiore, C. D. (2010). Do Public Library Summer Reading Programs Close the Achievement Gap? Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children, 8(3), 27-31.
Wilson, T. (1992). Impact of technology on resource sharing: experimentation and maturity. NY: Routledge.