Monday, November 19, 2007

An Ode to the Print Reference Collection

Anyone who has recently visited the second floor of the Main Library, may beg to ask the question – where have all the reference books gone? Within the last two months we have reduced the print reference collection to nearly half its size, and branches in Columbia Falls and Bigfork are doing likewise. Our print reference collection at the Main Library has represented a wide breadth and scope of authoritative and respected resources – not to mention the hard work and dedication of librarians who have cultivated the collection to respond to the questions and needs of the community.

So, why the dramatic reduction? Technology and space. With resources like Google people can discover more information and become more independent searchers. The way librarians once created collections, which were supposed to be more mediated, has changed dramatically: we now create access points in the “wider web” to the content we hold for our customers. World-wide, we as information professionals, have to rethink traditional notions of reference, as well as how to organize the collections and what kind of collections we should have. Our online Auto Repair Database is a great example of this shift.

Space is another issue throughout the Flathead County Library system. As our collections grow, so do the communities' need for services such as free access computers and relaxing places to sit. Many of the reference books have been moved to the Adult Non-Fiction collection and are now able to check out. Others that were dated and/or the information is better found online, have been given to the Friends’ of the Library or discarded, while long runs of serials have been moved to storage.

While some reference materials will always remain viable, the daily duties and the tools used to achieve FCL’s Plan of Service Goals have changed dramatically. Technology has penetrated every facet of library service and these changes in turn have affected how staff and customers interact with and structure libraries. These changes keep a library relevant, shape how libraries are perceived, and most of all - how libraries are used.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I will come to see what you have done upstairs and can't wait to see what fills the space.