Running a public library, especially a library located in a historic structure that is pushing 90 years of age is always a challenge. Considering that in 1925 no one imagined that a library would someday have to have computers, wireless Internet access (Al Gore wasn’t even born yet!), LED lights, handicapped entrances, air conditioning, elevators, etc.
Needless to say, while the outside of the library is not that different from 1925, the inside is a vibrant modern library that has capabilities that could hardly be imagined during the ‘Roarin’ Twenties.’ Of course, this type of evolution does not happen by accident. It takes a dedicated and flexible staff, a board willing to try new services and programs, and a community willing to use the library in new ways.
Right now the Meadville Public Library is in the beginning phases of creating a new master plan. One of the first steps in that process is participating in a new initiative from the Public Library Association (PLA) called the Edge Initiative. Twenty libraries in Pennsylvania have been asked to participate in this new project. Basically, Edge measures how well a library is offering the latest in new technology services using benchmark techniques. In other words, you compare how your library stacks up with the top libraries in the U.S. And though we are very honoured to be selected for this project, we also know that we cannot afford to offer both traditional library services and new innovative programs without cutting back somewhere.
Another step in the planning process is asking you, the public, for feedback on what you want to see in your Public Library in the future. Do you want a public library that offers the latest technology but fewer materials? Or a library that has the latest materials but does not have the latest electronic services? Or do we prioritize the electronics services and balance that with selective cuts in traditional library programs? I imagine that everyone has a different opinion on this topic. In order to get as much information as possible we will be asking our patrons to express opinions on these important issues. Sometime this fall we will be releasing a questionnaire concerning our current and proposed library services. There will be both electronic and paper-based questionnaires (we are trying to get an honest opinion here.) At that time we will also allow public comment on what we may be able to offer the public in the future.
Our old library has faced many challenges over the past 90 years. The next ten years will in all likelihood see more changes than in the past 90 years put together. When we release the survey this fall, please take a few moments and tell us how you feel the Meadville Public Library should proceed going into the future.