What Is a Library?
Libraries need updating, once in a while. Sometimes the update is a new building or an expansion, and sometimes it’s the concept of what the Library is offering to the public and how it may serve the patrons better. When I first read about the River Center Branch Library (RCBL) in River Falls, Wisconsin and their architect Rex Canabiss’ idea that the new space they were building will not be filled with old books, I must admit there was an audible gasp emanating from the depths of my soul. Doesn’t this go against everything that makes a library a library? Who would have the chutzpah to do such a thing and think they can get away with it? Once the dust settled though, and my dander was down, I was able to logically think about what they were proposing.
They state that they plan on decreasing the number of books that they own. Currently the RCBL holds 100,000 books and their plan is to decrease to 70,000-80,000. 30,000 is a pretty significant drop, in my opinion. To me the question is how to decide what stays and what goes. Who decides what is no longer relevant?
The space will be much larger than the original Library. It will be four floors and each floor will have an out-door space availability. Events and shows of different kinds will have the outdoor and indoor space possibility. Also, a coffee bar is planned for the first floor, which will be great for the staff as well as the patrons. Many libraries are currently getting rid of the old policy of no drinks inside the building. The library I work at changed the rule to: ‘drinks with lids on them’ are allowed, in 2012. Essentially it seems as though the plans are to make the space more than a book receptacle; a common ground space for the whole community to enjoy on many different levels (literally and figuratively). “The library’s design is to maximize the space for advancing technology and changing community needs” (III 2013)
A library is one of those facilities that must keep up with the times. It seems as though RCBL is banking on this ideology. No longer are we living in a time when books are all that a successful library has to offer. By not only wiring itself for technology of today but also ‘maximizing the space for advancing technology’ the RCBL is proving itself to be forward thinking. This space will be somewhere where the community can host events, businesses can conduct meetings, community members can hang out, and yes, patrons can check out books.
Roberts III, Faimon A., the advocate. April 04, 2013. http://theadvocate.com/home/5560351-125/ideas-for-new-library-presented (accessed April 15, 2013).