Studying the Landscape

Libraries balance traditional library collections (books, magazines, and multimedia) with information technology, which is essential for personal and economic information and knowledge. Services are delivered from facilities and electronically to people’s homes and businesses. Adequate and inviting facilities are an essential component of library service in the 21st Century. Before proceeding to the recommendations for Fresno, it is essential to understand that buildings are needed in the 21st Century.

Why Do We Need Library Buildings

Libraries’ role of collection and cataloging of information and recorded knowledge has not changed, nor will it change. What will change is how these activities are carried out--that is in print, online, and where these activities are carried out--that is in library buildings and remotely. In the future, electronic sources may ultimately push out much that is now printed, but it is unclear when this will happen. Meanwhile books will coexist with other forms of access: online, video, DVD, CD, and formats not yet invented. This view is confirmed in Buildings, Books, and Bytes: Libraries and Communities in the Digital Age. This study undertaken by the Benton Foundation and published by the American Library Association and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, stated “Americans continue to have a love affair with their libraries, but they have difficulty figuring out where libraries fit in the new digital world.”
Many think that the World Wide Web obviates the need for libraries. Clifford Lynch, Director of the Coalition for Networked Information, addressed this view when he stated “One sometimes hears the Internet characterized as the world's library for the digital age. This description does not stand up under even casual examination. The Internet--and particularly its collection of multimedia resources known as the World Wide Web--was not designed to support the organized publication and retrieval of information, as libraries are. It has evolved into what might be thought of as a chaotic repository for the collective output of the world's digital "printing presses." This storehouse of information contains not only books and papers but raw scientific data, menus, meeting minutes, advertisements, video and audio recordings, and transcripts of interactive conversations. The ephemeral mixes everywhere with works of lasting importance. In short, the Net is not a digital library. But if it is to continue to grow and thrive as a new means of communication, something very much like traditional library services will be needed to organize, access and preserve networked information. Even then, the Net will not resemble a traditional library, because its contents are more widely dispersed than a standard collection. Consequently, the librarian's classification and selection skills must be complemented by the computer scientist's ability to automate the task of indexing and storing information. Only a synthesis of the differing perspectives brought by both professions will allow this new medium to remain viable.” *1
The KRC Research and Consulting conducted a telephone survey in March of 2002. The margin of error is 3 percent.
84 % of adults are satisfied with their public libraries.
Those aged 25 to 34 visited the most often -- 24 times per year.
The average library user makes 13 visits a year.
More than two-thirds of adults with children under 18 say they visit libraries with their children.
62 % of adult Americans say they have a library card.
Adults with children are most likely to have a library card.
Current per capita spending is $25, and more than half of those polled believe $26 to $100 per capita should be spent to support libraries.
With more than 16,000 public library outlets, librarians have an extensive reach in most communities nationwide. More than 80 new public library buildings opened last year, representing an estimated nationwide investment of $414 million, according to ALA Executive Director William R. Gordon.
This survey also sought to gauge public perceptions of libraries
91 % believe libraries are changing and dynamic places with a variety of activities for the whole family.
90 % believe libraries are places of opportunity for education, self-help and offer free access to all.
88 % agreed libraries are unique because you have access to nearly everything on the Web or in print, as well as personal service and assistance in finding it.
83 % believe free people need free libraries; and libraries and librarians play an essential role in our democracy and are needed now more than ever.
81 % agreed that librarians are techno-savvy and on the forefront of the Information Age.
Information about library construction supports the health of libraries.
Library Journal reported more than $788.4 million spent on library construction in the United States between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2002, the most since 1995-1996 when $723 was allocated to new constuction and renovation projects.
During 2001-2002 101 new facilities and 111 addition/renovations were completed.
During 2000-2001, 80 new facilities and 132 additions/renovations were completed.
A six-year summary compiled by Library Journal shows that construction and square footage have never dipped below $600 million or 4 million square feet. *2

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*1 Clifford Lynch, "Searching the Internet", Scientific American, March 1997
*2 David Barista, "Cutting Edge Libraries", Building Design and Construction, September 2002

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