Aurora looks to future of libraries

  • Michael Stephens, an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University talks with Jeffry Butler, president of the Aurora Public Library Board, about the future of libraries.

    Michael Stephens, an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University talks with Jeffry Butler, president of the Aurora Public Library Board, about the future of libraries. Courtesy Amy Roth

  • Among the Aurora residents discussing the future of libraries are Shirley Flaherty, Marge Nichols, Sue-z Bruno and Debbie Turner.

    Among the Aurora residents discussing the future of libraries are Shirley Flaherty, Marge Nichols, Sue-z Bruno and Debbie Turner. Courtesy Amy Roth

 
By Amy Roth
Aurora Public Library submission

Five words will be particularly significant in the library of the future, an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science told roughly 70 community and Aurora Public Library leaders.

Michael Stephens of San Jose State University told officials those words are community, creativity, collaboration, curiosity and connectivity.

Stephens spoke Dec. 7 in a library-sponsored presentation at the Hampton Inn and Suites on Aurora's far west side to a group that included Mayor Tom Weisner; aldermen Abby Schuler, Lynda Elmore and Rick Mervine; representatives from city government, school districts, the library's Citizens Advisory Group; and library representatives including Director Eva Luckinbill and board President Jeffry Butler.

After Stephens' presentation, attendees participated in round-table discussions that sparked feedback about the technological needs of a new Aurora Public Library.

Land for a new main library has been purchased at the corner of River and Benton streets in downtown and the library board is embarking on the design phase of a larger, state-of-the-art building.

Stephens' research focuses on the use of emerging technologies in libraries. He writes a monthly column in Library Journal that explores issues, ideas, and emerging trends in library and information science education. Stephens has spoken about emerging technologies, innovation, and libraries to audiences in more than 26 states and in five countries.

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Stephens said he was well aware there are those who feel that because of the Internet, libraries have served their purpose and no longer are needed.

But he noted that in its early days, the telephone "freaked people out" because they feared face-to-face interaction would cease. But the telephone was just like other new gadgets and devices that have surfaced through the years, he said: "People get used to them."

Stephens addressed the challenge of how one "designs a library when print books are no longer its core business."

He answered the challenge with an observation: "The core values of librarianship have stayed the same, but the tools are constantly changing."

"In public libraries, I don't think books will go away for a long, long time, although academic libraries are getting rid of them now," he said.

He sees libraries continuing on as places for literacy and learning; "connected learning spaces, if you will," he said.

He also sees librarians continuing in the role of helping people find and take care of data, except they may soon be in the business of the curating and stewardship of geospatial information.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Stephens also envisions the library as being the go-to place for the public to learn about existing and emerging technologies. He envisions "genius bars" where people can bring their electronic gadgets and learn to use them.

Like other libraries around the world, Aurora Public Library locations help people transfer e-books onto their devices every day.

He also touted the importance of libraries' teen spaces, saying that "what starts there will be everywhere."

Audience members who participated in the roundtables listed a number of things they would like to see in the new Aurora Public Library. Among them were:

• an imagination/creative lab;

• genius bar;

• programs that reach out to all age groups;

• interconnection with school and university libraries;

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• movable walls;

• physical data storage;

• soundproof performance room;

• community garden;

• roaming librarians (in the library and throughout the community);

• and SMART Boards all over.

One group said its members' goal for a future Aurora Public Library is that it be the "guardian of the community memory."