From the Library Director
As I think about all my years working in libraries, I realize our work has changed a lot. We went from drawers of cards for our catalog to a mobile app running on your cell phone.
What is a “book?” When I started working in libraries, everyone knew what you meant if you said, "book." Today, when someone says "book," do they mean a typical print-on-paper-book or an audiobook? Might you mean an audiobook on CD or do you mean an audiobook that can be downloaded to a mobile device? When you say "book," do you mean an eBook for a Kindle or a NOOK or an iPad? Or, perhaps you're talking about a book that is available to be read on a computer screen? Simply saying, "I want a book" leads to an amazing array of possible choices. What becomes a challenge for Mid-Continent Public Library is how to keep doing what people like, but also provide what is new and in demand. What is additionally a challenge is to meet both desires in a cost-effective way.
What is a "magazine?" This used to be easy to answer. We offer traditional printed magazines. Several years ago, we started purchasing online versions of magazines that could be searched through the Internet. This gives you access to decades of magazine articles for leisure and research. But that really wasn't like reading a magazine. It was great for research, but not so great for leisurely reading. Now, we are offering a new service that will allow you to read online versions of magazines that look just like the paper versions you enjoy. Best of all, you can borrow this magazine any place you have Internet access.
What is "music?" Traditionally, "music" at our libraries was sheet music. That's right; it was music you couldn't actually hear. Over time, you could find music on records, cassette tapes, and even CDs. Most recently, we've started providing music that you can download and keep.
What is a "library?" The first Mid-Continent Public Library buildings were rented storefronts, frequently in a strip mall. They had very little personality because we were limited by what our landlords would allow. Starting in the 1980s, with voter approval, we started a building program where we built or remodeled all of our service outlets. For the first time, many of our buildings had their own storytime areas. They all had carpet. They were still very generic and utilitarian. Today, people still want a library that is a warehouse of books and information. But many people also want a place to collaborate and to build community. People want a place that isn’t their home or their workplace. For some, this is the local coffeehouse. But others look to the library to fill that need.
How will Mid-Continent Public Library help continue to provide what you need? We will continue to allocate a larger percentage of our budget for acquiring new material than any other library from our peer group. We will listen to what people say they want. We will listen to what people say they need. Sometimes, we will have to provide a traditional service while simultaneously trying out a leading edge service. It is a challenge, but it is one that we welcome. While keeping our eye on the bottom line, we will continue to provide the traditional with the innovative, all in an effort to offer you the best library experience in United States.
Steven V. Potter, Library Director and C.E.O.