The Building Audit of Victorian Public Libraries 2007 was a report created to get an overview of public library buildings in Victoria. At 258 pages it’s a bit lengthy so I must admit that I just read through the presentation available at http://www.libraries.vic.gov.au/cgi-bin/infonet/org.cgi?detail=1&id=40 and attempted to formulate some ideas.
The report uses a benchmark (People places) to identify where we’re going wrong.
One of the things that got my goat about this report was that it bemoaned the fact that our collection areas in general are too small. I think this is very backwards thinking. Sure, a library has a physical collection. People come in daily to browse through our shelves and pull off what they want to borrow. But we are so much more than that. We have a virtual collection (which doesn’t need floorspace). We encourage people to meet in our libraries by providing community spaces such as tables and chairs, lounge areas, cafe areas, study areas. Why on earth would we want to be increasing our collections at the expense of the things that draw people in?
At a time when traditional library usage is declining, I honestly don’t believe that we should be limiting ourselves in this way. We don’t have a huge amount of people coming in these days to ask us reference queries (of course, with the demographic of my library community, we probably never did). More people come to us because they can borrow (for free) movies and reading material for pleasure. To get people to borrow our items we are offering other services: a safe space; a friendly ear; someone to help you with finding information to solve your problems.
Pfft to reports trying to make us into scary places with tomes of wisdom.