• By Don Dwiggins
  • Posted Monday, March 10, 2014

10 Questions for the Library Director

Q. What is the status of the new Central Library?

A. A selection committee tasked with interviewing prospective architectural firms has recommended Ratio Architects, a firm with an office in Raleigh as the architect for a new Central Library. If commissioners approve the recommended firm during a meeting on March 24th, the next step will be to determine design and construction schedules. The recommendation of an architect to design the new building was done by a committee of ten people from both the public and private sector. Of nineteen firms who expressed interest in designing the new building, six were chosen to make a formal presentation to the committee with one being selected for recommendation to the Board of Commissioners. All six were worthy of selection.

Q. Will any more public meetings be scheduled to gather additional input from the public on the design of the new building?

A. There will probably be one meeting for the public and one for Library staff at a date and time to be determined. The chosen architect will have read comments and suggestions gathered from the four public meetings held in 2012 about the new Library but will hold additional meetings to hear from the public and library staff directly as to their thoughts about the new building.

Q. How will technology be integrated into the new building?

A. There will be Wi-Fi throughout the building; we will have self-check-out stations so customers can quickly check-out materials themselves. We hope to have a check-out center for mobile devices. We are also looking at offering a maker space which is a place where the public comes to solve everyday problems creatively, through the use of technology. We also plan to have video-conferencing technology in all of our meeting rooms and auditorium. Our goal is to have the latest technology possible when the building opens for business. Of course, having the latest technology requires a well funded technology budget. Over time we will gradually add more technology as funds become available in future budgets.

Q. According to Pew Research, 28% of adults read e-books in 2013 while 69% read print books. Since 2011, people reading e-books has risen 11 % while people reading print books has remained basically unchanged. Given these statistics how do you see future Library book budgets being distributed between print and e-books?

A. Right now our print books are still more popular with our customers than e-books, but e-books are gaining. Each year we have been increasing our spending on e-books by 10%. Given the anticipated growth in e-books we will continue to look closely at how future book budgets are distributed between print books and e-books.

Q. Research also shows a rising trend of young adults choosing to access Library resources via mobile applications. What is your thinking in terms of growing the Library brand and increasing the use of library resources through mobile technology?

A. We are looking into offering a mobile app for our Library. It’s something we would like to offer before the new building opens. We have a solid presence in social networking with Face Book and Twitter. Our virtual Library is great and continues to be used more and more each year by the public. A big audience for social media is young people, especially teenagers. Our Teen Librarian keeps us up to date as to what teens are interested in, especially the latest trends in social media and our para-techs do a good job of keeping us current with the latest news on the technology front.

Q. The Library recently joined NC Cardinal, a consortium of Public Libraries across the state who shares their circulating book collections with other consortium members. How has being a consortium member gone so far?

A. So far things have gone really well. We've received many positive comments from our customers. Customers are pleased to often find titles in another NC Cardinal Library that may not be available in our own. We are sending out quite a few books to other consortium member libraries as well. As more libraries join the consortium, holds that customers place on library materials should become fewer and fewer. As customers learn more of how NC Cardinal works, we expect usage to increase even more. If our customers are interested in learning more about NC Cardinal our staff is offering classes using NC Cardinal.

Q. What other things has the Library done to maximize or increase resources available to customers?

A. We offer a great collection of downloadable media such as e-books, audio books, video, music and magazines which have allowed us to increase resources available to our customers.

Q. With the national and local economy still in a slow recovery, what has been the largest challenge to the Library in juggling tight budgets year after year?

A. We have to prioritize. Our budget has basically been flat for the past three or four years. However with the increase of formats our regular budget is stretched to include titles in variety of formats. Downloadable media such as Zinio has allowed us to increase our periodicals collection while actually reducing the amount of money spent on print periodicals. We recently purchased Freegal which has allowed us to reduce our budget for purchasing music. We are also a part of a consortium of North Carolina libraries that contract with Overdrive, a vendor offering downloadable e-books and audio.

Q. With the rapid rise of technology and communications over the last 20 years, how must libraries re-position themselves to remain a primary source of information, referral, learning and entertainment for the community?

A. Librarians are very flexible and adapt quickly to change. There’s no other choice. We have to adapt to the changes that come our way in order to remain relevant and viable. We love change. It’s just a matter of having the funds needed to implement change that can sometimes be the challenge. Our staff does a great job in seeking out and applying for grants that supplements our regular operating budget. Our success with grants is often responsible for the increased technologies and information that we offer customers.

Q. What will the Forsyth County Public Library look like in 20 years?

A. We will still be the community’s living room; people will still come here to network, gather for programming and seek out content. There’s still a digital divide in the community so we will continue to be a place where people can come for free access to the Internet and other technologies that are so vital to being successful. However, no matter how advanced technology becomes people are still people and need interaction with others. I believe libraries can and will continue to be a community gathering place where we can not only learn from technology but also interact and learn from each other.

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