Bessie’s Books and Other Things
Books are important in terms of what they represent, their content. Access to information is a basic right of all Canadians and Public Libraries fight to keep that access equal to all. But the printed book as a format is evolving. Much of the information that used to come out of printed books can be found online. Information changes so quickly that libraries have actually stopped buying some formats like print encyclopaedias because they are obsolete before they even hit our shelves. We would rather offer up-to-date databases than expensive out-of-date books. Does this mean that I think the book is dying? No, but it is changing. It no longer has to be paper that I can hold in my hand, my beloved novels can now be downloaded wherever I may be and I can download audio to listen to in my car or wherever I like. I heard someone once describe it in the following way, “The library is concerned about access to the content and not what container that content comes in.”
If you view it that way, books are still very much alive, what goes on our shelves is evolving, and the container of the content is changing, but they are still books.
That said libraries lend other things besides books. The possibilities are endless if you have the space and the staff. There are libraries in Ontario lending; fishing rods, cake pans, tools, musical instruments, pedometers, energy use readers, and many other things you can think of.
As space allows, the Haliburton County Public Library has begun to look at non-traditional library products that are useful to the community. We are home to one of the first seed libraries in the province. There are now seed libraries in four of our branches. Seed borrowing isn’t quite like other kinds of borrowing, we don’t actually expect to get the seeds you borrowed back, we hope that they will grow into something, but when you are harvesting your seeds we also hope that you think of us and bring some into share with others.
We have a small selection of electronics including ereaders and laptops. We want people to be able to play with devices and learn how they work; much learning that goes on in libraries is self-directed. However, we will also be conducting workshops in the summer on specific topics that will help you learn about different devices and their capabilities.
At the Dysart Branch we have entered into a partnership with the municipality to lend outdoor activity equipment that is compatible with use in Head Lake Park. For example, if you are visiting the park and decide you would like to try Disc Golf, you can borrow the discs at the library. The same goes for tennis, basketball, football, soccer, and more.
Libraries are changing but the fundamentals of what we do have stayed the same; we allow access to information, technology, and public gathering space. As long as we stick to the fundamentals we should be able to evolve with the needs of the community. What that evolution will look like is anyone’s guess, but constant change certainly makes working in Libraries interesting.
*Originally published in County Life May 26, 2016.