Archive for Sunday, July 2, 2006

Does Lawrence need a larger library?

As consumers embrace Internet, experts predict shift in role of libraries

July 2, 2006


Librarians have a label for the time that we're living in: The Age of Google.

The shadow of the world's most dominant search engine increasingly can be found in libraries nationwide. Today, a few keystrokes on a home computer can produce information that historically has been the bailiwick of a library's reference department.

Soon - thanks to a 2004 agreement with major libraries at universities such as Michigan, Stanford and Oxford - Google users will be able to access millions of pieces of work that have been scanned in directly from the libraries' holdings. And with Google's founders having a widely reported goal of making all the world's information available to anyone with a Web browser, more is on the way.

"I think there is going to be a really amazing revolution take place in the world of libraries in the next 10 years," said Robin Chandler, who has worked with Google, Yahoo! and others as a top executive with the California Digital Library, an all-Internet library run through the University of California.

What Lawrence leaders must figure out is whether it will be a bloody revolution for a city that is considering building a new, much larger downtown library that has cost estimates ranging from $40 million to $70 million.

Anthony Van Schmus, 9, foreground, reads a book as a craft session begins in the Lawrence Public Library's gallery. Despite a nationwide technological movement, visits to the local library have increased 31 percent between 2000 and 2005.

Anthony Van Schmus, 9, foreground, reads a book as a craft session begins in the Lawrence Public Library's gallery. Despite a nationwide technological movement, visits to the local library have increased 31 percent between 2000 and 2005.

After all, if the country is swept up in a new technological movement of library-quality search engines and electronic books, will Lawrence need nearly 130,000 square feet of bricks-and-mortar library space?

Bruce Flanders, executive director of the Lawrence Public Library, says a new library would be about two-and-a-half times the size of the city's current library, if built as proposed. But Flanders says he isn't worried the community could be poised to overbuild.

"There is not one ounce of fear in my body about that," Flanders said. "I know we could provide some very effective and wonderful library services that the community would be proud of."

City commissioners have not decided whether to move forward on a new library project. But four developers have proposed public-private partnerships to build downtown libraries. One of the companies involved is The World Company, which publishes the Journal-World.

A home run away

Flanders speaks with confidence about the future success of a new library because he has numbers to back him up.

"Our experience is that library usage is skyrocketing," Flanders said.

From 2000 to 2005, the number of visits to the library has increased 31 percent to 498,131. The library's circulation - the number of items loaned out - has increased during the same period by 53 percent to just under 1 million items.

Those increases are stronger than national averages, but libraries nationwide are continuing to see growth, according to industry statistics. From 1991 to 2002, per-capita visitation to libraries increased from 3.3 visits per person to 4.2. Circulation also increased by 41 percent from 677 million to 956 million.

Some library and information science leaders, though, wonder whether this is the calm before the storm. That's partly because America is at an interesting time. The children in junior highs and high schools today mark the first generation that has had computers and the Internet as a major part of their lives since birth. They never knew the pre-Web world.

For Garth Conboy - president of La Jolla, Calif.-based eBook Technologies Inc. - that means a major shift is on the horizon. Generation Y will adopt the Internet as its reference library of choice in much greater numbers than previous generations, he believes.

Audio Clips
Public Libraries

The second shift - which Conboy expects to see in the next 10 years - is that electronic books will become a new phenomenon.

"I continue to believe that there is going to be a homerun product in the consumer e-book space," said Conboy, whose company develops new e-book products. "I'm hoping, and I guess really betting, that will happen in the next five to 10 years."

Such a product will be some type of electronic device that isn't much heavier or larger than a book and has easy-to-read texts and features that will allow users to do electronic searches of books and take notes while they read.

Some electronic book tablets already exist on the market for less than $150, and Conboy estimates at least half of the New York Times bestsellers are available in e-book form.

David Nieves, Belleview, Neb., shows off several reptiles to children at the Lawrence Public Libary. Bruce Flanders, executive director of the library, says a larger library would allow more space for community programs such as this one.

David Nieves, Belleview, Neb., shows off several reptiles to children at the Lawrence Public Libary. Bruce Flanders, executive director of the library, says a larger library would allow more space for community programs such as this one.

Not even Conboy, though, is so optimistic to predict that e-books will replace paper books anytime soon. That probably won't happen in his lifetime, he said, but he believes the day is coming when e-books become the preferred choice for large segments of the population. That would be in addition to the growing audio book market that is allowing iPod users to download entire texts for their listening pleasure.

It all, obviously, would have large implications for how libraries are designed and function. Flanders agrees more and more research and reference materials will be digital. He said the library is already taking that trend into account.

But he isn't convinced the day is coming soon when people will begin curling up with an electronic tablet to read the latest Dan Brown or Dr. Phil book. The good old traditional book is tough to beat when it comes to portability and ease of use. Plus, it has multiple centuries of use, which has firmly ingrained it in the social fabric.

"I just haven't seen any killer type of application for e-books that is going to create a seismic shift that changes the way people read novels, or books on gardening or health or whatever," Flanders said. "That doesn't mean that companies won't keep trying to find that application. But from where I stand, the printed book is going to be around for quite awhile."

Survey reflects trends in use

Here's a look at findings from a national survey released earlier this year by the Americans for Libraries Council.

¢ In today's world with Internet access, online databases and large booksellers, such as and Barnes & Noble, do you think libraries have become more, less or the same importance to their communities? Same: 37 percent Less: 36 percent More: 24 percent

¢ Do you think information found by yourself on the Internet is more reliable, less reliable or just as reliable as information that a reference librarian directs you to? Just as: 47 percent Less: 28 percent More: 13 percent

¢ Percent of people who give an "A" grade to the following services in their community: Library service: 45 percent Parks: 31 percent Public education: 25 percent Health care: 22 percent

¢ Top reasons why people don't use the library: Too busy: 24 percent No interest/no use: 17 percent Use Internet: 13 percent

¢ Have you used a library for Internet access: Yes: 34 percent No: 66 percent

¢ Major tasks and goals a library should accomplish: Safe place for teenagers: 74 percent Literacy programs for adults: 68 percent Repository for government forms and information: 64 percent Public access to computers and Internet: 64 percent

¢ Books are better for pleasure reading than electronic methods. Agree: 86 percent Disagree: 12 percent

Time will ultimately answer the question. But Conboy notes the trade association that represents the e-book industry has had a slew of high-profile companies join within the last month. The biggest:, the Internet book behemoth.

More than books

Some national library experts, though, say even if e-books, audio books or some other type of book technology becomes wildly popular, libraries will thrive.

That's because libraries are taking on an expanding role in communities, or perhaps even in society.

"Libraries are very much community centers," said Fred Schlipf, director of the Urbana, Ill., Free Library and an adjunct professor at the highly ranked University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science. "Part of the reason is this is a more lonely and isolated age than it used to be. People spend a lot of time in libraries."

Flanders said he thought that was definitely a role Lawrence's proposed new library would play. He said a new 130,000-square-feet library would include room for much more than books. It would add space for 100 additional computers, a more than fivefold increase in meeting space and specially designed rooms for teenagers to explore books, music, food and more.

"The idea of a library as an intellectual commons for a community is really spreading its wings," Flanders said.

Communities are increasingly thinking outside the box about what type of services to provide. Chandler, with the California Digital Library, said she can envision libraries of the future loaning out iPods like they loan out books today.

Information about finances and health also are expected to be growing areas of emphasis. Flanders said he already sees many home-based business owners using the library as workspace and would expect to see more of it if the community builds a library that has wireless Internet access.

Some libraries, like one in Great Falls, Mont., have taken to the idea of helping patrons learn more about their own bodies. The library started a unique program to lend pedometers so people can measure how far they walk in a day.

Statistics suggest libraries aren't putting projects on hold to see what the future brings. According to industry statistics, the number of library construction projects has remained stable since 1969, at about 215 per year. The more recent trend, though, has favored remodeling and additions rather than new library construction.

Schlipf, who teaches a library architecture class and also does some consulting in the field, said the new projects definitely are getting bigger all the time. He said there's nothing unusual about a city like Lawrence - whose library is 34 years old - going from a building of about 45,000 square feet to one of about 130,000 square feet.

"The libraries I see being built now are much larger than they've ever been before, and nobody is saying, 'We shouldn't have built that much space.'"

Maybe, maybe not, said Chandler.

"I am convinced that what will start to happen is increasingly the public will be able to access a lot of the material they get from a library from their own homes," he said. "This really is the time to think about what are the values of a library."


KsTwister 11 years, 11 months ago

I said before the internet is easily accessible and more people go to the internet for information. Right now I know of many people who go to the library----to just use the computers. Our library is built to add upper floors which is more than adequate for this populace. Keep foolishly throwing our money at folly and dreams,we are not putting up with it much longer.

greyhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Actually, Macon47, subscription or membership libraries used to be far more common. The free, public library is a relatively recent phenomenon, due in no small measure to a fellow by the name of Carnegie. By your logic, let's charge every person who sets foot in a park every time. That's also similar to the private parks that flourished during the same time as private libraries.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 11 months ago

If telephone and cable companies succeed in getting the congress to allow them to take over near complete control of the internet, all bets mentioned above will be off. They will then control or even own most content on the web, which will mean that the web will not be able to subsitute for the public library as we currently think of it.

lunacydetector 11 years, 11 months ago

show me a $40-$70 Million park.

this whole thing is ridiculous. lawrence has stagnated, is most likely shrinking, and the powers that be -after spending our taxdollars on roundabouts and everything automobile unfriendly, are poised to approve an astronomical boondoggle! they should be embracing this internet library - it will keep cars off the roads and make the roads safer for the unsharing bicycle riders.

how much more are we going to subsidize the downtown? keeping out an enclosed mall is all that is needed to keep our downtown safe from ruin, NOT $40,000,000 (i thought the original number was $30,000,000) to $70,000,000! just dome massachusetts street (for far less money), and double the salary of the librarian.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Lest we not forget, the grand poobahs of Lawrence took it upon themselves to formally protest the Patriot Act on behalf of all its citizens.

Why in the world would they want to greatly increase the size of the llibrary, thus inviting larger throngs of people to be scrutinized by the government? Have they surreptitiously joined the other side, or is this just an inconvenient irony?

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

As I understand this article, libraries are having to become more and more creative to attract visitors and remain relevant. What Flanders is proposing is not a bigger library, he proposes a media entertainment center, restaurant and public meeting place.

By the way, Lunacydetector, as I recall, the original request for library expansion was not $30,000,000; that was the first revised request, the first baby step in gauging public reaction to the outrageous escalation in the size of the project.

The first request, as I recall, was in the neighborhood of $7,000,000. That was a big request; the ten-fold growth in the size of the request, to as high as $70,000,000, is patently absurd.

Ward 11 years, 11 months ago

You got it. The city and government want a new library to be built for increased observation of the habits and dangers that library patrons pose. The idea that it is good for the city and shared experience of learning for a community is a hoax. It always has been. Plus it's yet another tool to line the pockets of those robber baron librarians. And who cares about the homeless? They can just get a home if they didn't want to ride on everyone else's dollar, and they just don't know how to spend their minimum wage salary. Right? One more thing. Please make downtown and the city parks ugly, a forgotten and wornout eyesore. Stop beautifying the streets and making a visit downtown pleasurable. A new bumper sticker could read, "Make Lawrence Hackneyed".

Get over it.

When you have a moment to visit Chicago please do so. Upon your return give everyone an update of how you feel about their spending on beautification and civic space. It's taken a long while to get Chicago where it is today, but it is spectacular. That city has a plan that keeps evolving for the benefit of the citizens and visitors of Chicago. I realize it is much larger than what we've got here in Lawrence, but the planning and the necessary expenditures have paid off.

Make no small plans.

Somewhat related:

Nikki May 11 years, 11 months ago

Well, I go to the library about once a week. Sure, I see the random homeless person. I also see people using it as a wireless hotspot. Mostly however, I see kids. Take for example the pictures above. I was at the reptile thing with 40 children. The size of the room is not adequate for all the children that want to be in there. Any time there is something for kids planned, it's jammed packed and standing room only. Also, have you seen the bathrooms? You can't even move around in there.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

Ward, Ward, Ward. How sweet of you to denigrate Lawrence for not having amenities like those in Chicago.

Population of Chicago: 2,800,000 and growing.

Population of Lawrence: 88,000 and shrinking.

Chicago: center of commerce, home office to multiple major corporations; vacation destination; convention destination; home of major international airport; host to major professional athletic clubs; shopping opportunities that attract people from all over the world.

Lawrence: little home of big government. Business unfriendly. Antagonistic to shoppers, visitors and newcomers.

And you think Lawrence should spend nearly $745 per resident on a new government funded entertainment center.

The equivalent in Chicago would be a $2 billion dollar library right smack in the middle of downtown. Do you think Chicagoans would vote for that?

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

Punkrockmom, I agree with you. If the new library plans were truly directed at making it more accessible to children and toward traditional library functions, I would not oppose; this proposal to redevelop the entire downtown just to improve the library is a boondoggle.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 11 months ago

"The equivalent in Chicago would be a $2 billion dollar library right smack in the middle of downtown."

Who's comparing apples and oranges in this statement?

alm77 11 years, 11 months ago

punkrock, I'm with you. The place is full.

As for the rest of you, who, as usual, don't know what the hell you're talking about, it's not overrun by homeless, and it's not just for reading the paper. Most people go there to CHECK OUT BOOKS!! I know what you're thinking "People today actually READ BOOKS?!?!" The answer is YES. According to this article almost 1 million items a year. Go to the library and stand my the check out desk sometime and while you're there, grab a good book.

paladin 11 years, 11 months ago

They are trying to, and They will shut it down. Just have to get smart. If you got a wire, you got freedom. It will come to that.

matahari 11 years, 11 months ago

The idea of a new library is absurd! someone wants to garnish a few of those funds methinks, plain and simple.. If they want to expand, put a few trailer houses in the parking lot, and make the pool customers park's only a ploy for the downtown business owners who seem to run this town to get more people to come downtown~ The whole idea makes me sick. I frequent the library at least once a week, never have to stand in line for checkout, and happy with the selection and they order my requests. If I want to use the computers, I may have to wait 5 minutes...gysh!

lunacydetector 11 years, 11 months ago

you'd think the do-gooders would embrace the internet library idea, but since it is a cutting edge idea they run and hide. you'd think after the Freenet approval (which by the way seems to coincide with my AM radio reception sucking - a coincidence, i don't know?), the do-gooders would be all over this idea. tax and spend on a boondoggle that would benefit at least 1100 people a day -possibly doubling that number. money NOT well spent.

i thought lawrence was full of smart and educated people. could the Census be wrong? i doubt it. 'educated idiots' comes to mind.

greyhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Okay macon47.....let's extend it out a bit further.....since you think user fees are the most equitable in distributing the burdens and benefits of society, what about the following? If you have a fire at your residence, you pay the cost of the response since you used their services. Why should those residents who never have fires pay millions for fire stations and salaries and equipment? If your home is burglarized, you pay the cost of the police investigation. After all, the vast majority of people have no contact with police other than the occasional speeding ticket.
Every road becomes a toll use it, you pay for it.
Base school property tax levies on whether you have children attending the public kids, no taxes; lots of kids, heavy taxes.
Add a fee for each building permit for the real cost of providing new services of any type to that residence.

Is that REALLY what you're calling for? Or just user fees on those services/societal benefits that you perceive as luxuries? While I don't think that any of the library plans proffered to date are appropriate at this time, in my book (if you'll forgive the pun) libraries are the mark of civilized society. We all benefit whether directly or indirectly and so we should all share the cost.

KsTwister 11 years, 11 months ago

Spin is what ljw thrives on,I used to think it was just bad journalism but it is deliberate wording. No matter, the internet is International and it belongs to all people, you can go online and download books if you wish or record it in audio form as I will do while mowing the yard. Libraries are a vital part of a town........but the inflated ridiculous $70mil is just pure downright stupidity on the part of your elected officials. Our problem is that they are all completely CLUELESS that they are indeed abusing the taxpayers for their folly. Why can't more intelligent people run and get voted for?? I think they know Lawrence is too far gone,so they are leaving. Since January 1 I know real estate people who have only sold 2 homes in this year. Less sales tax from home sales--you have to agree Lawrence has it coming.

Ward 11 years, 11 months ago

The Library has identified the young readers and popular/new collections areas as two of their primary needs for consideration of new facilities: They are on the first floor, just like at the new generation of large booksellers.

Godot. Perhaps my point was misunderstood. No denigration of Lawrence intended. Chicago offers many amenities. Lawrence makes attempts at this too, and the tremendous size differences makes comparisons almost nutty. Lawrence is actually akin to a Chicago ward or three in population size. Several naysayers amongst us project the opinion that the bolstering of downtown, its beautification via landscaping and the like are a waste. I value the attempts made by the City to make downtown and the parks a pleasant experience.

A lot of libraries have been built across the country in the last few years. Several of them have become generators for other activity and growth. This is not new. A new Library of the requested size will create many new opportunities and opponents.

BTW I wouldn't expect anyone propose a Library of the expense you suggested. It would turn into a Babel of confusion. Because of the size and density of Chicago, they build branch libraries that reflect the ward that they are built. The Central Library is the Harold Washington Library. It was built in the 80s. It's not to be looked at.

I did find this url that shows the cost of some Chicago Branch Libraries. They are stingy with their information. The Oriole Park Branch Library is 14,000 square feet. It cost $5 million in 2004. That's $357/sqaure foot two years ago. I'm uncertain of the ward 41 population or what the statistics (age, size, etc) may be for any facilities that are being replaced.

KsTwister 11 years, 11 months ago

Ward, one more time -----this is Lawrence, not Chicago: part or some; nor Topeka,Boulder,Omaha. AND the reason I say that is that their TAX BASE is bigger. Lawrence has lost 2 large companies(E &H) in the last 3 years with more to follow. So with projected use and areas needed remodling yes maybe but at even a $30 Mil price tag is unreasonable and STUPID. We need a sewer plant more for all the S**T there is in Lawrence politics.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

bozo wrote: ""The equivalent in Chicago would be a $2 billion dollar library right smack in the middle of downtown.

Who's comparing apples to oranges in this statement?"

Let me break it down for you (by the way, I didn't even have to go to the library to gather this info, I just "googled" and used basic math)

The most expensive Lawrence library proposal would have the taxpayers kick in a mere $70,000,000. There are 88,000 residents of Lawrence. That makes it a cost of $795 per man, woman and child residing in Lawrence.

There are 2,800,000 people in Chicago. Multiply it out yourself. If Chicago approached a central library the way Lawrence is doing it, a new Chicago library would have to cost $2,227,272,727 dollars. Using Ward's figure of $375 per square foot, that would mean Chicago would have to have a 5,939,393 sq ft library to compete, apples to apples with Lawrence and its proposed new media entertainment and public gathering center.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

alm77, I agree with you that the library is for books; now read all the articles in the JW archive about the library project, and also go to the city of Lawrence website and view the plans by the various developers.

Books are last on the list of improvements. Computers, music, videos, coffee shops, restaurants, convention space, meeting rooms, new retail, new loft apartments and new office space are the reason this is being proposed.

Furthermore, after the taxpayers spend the millions (proposals range from $40,000,000 to over $70,000,000, and the meter is running...) the city would not even own the library! The city would have to lease it for 20 or 30 years, and then buy it back or be faced with building another one!

These proposals make the Halliburton deals look like small potatoes!

james bush 11 years, 11 months ago

Cut a deal with Dell and give everyone in Douglas county a computer and connection to the internet instead of a monument to a fading era.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

Just remember, folks, this is not about a new library and more books - that is simply the cover - this is about rebuilding downtown and making a few people very, very rich at the taxpayers' expense.

If this were really about providing sufficient access to books and promoting reading and research, we would be seeing proposals for two or three branch libraries.

KsTwister 11 years, 11 months ago

The seniors only getting 1000 a month on soc security are left to starve with this proposal....REALLY.Do not retire in Lawrence, Kansas.

matahari 11 years, 11 months ago

It's time for a revolution, and not, as it many will have us believe in this deception that it's users are using! Give us money so we can educate the homeless! YEA RIGHT! The people are not stupid, but the ones running things are money mongrels! Can we not all agree upon that point?

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

add to the statement, power mongrels, and I will agree.

Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

um, macon47, what does this have to do with the library?

Terry Bush 11 years, 11 months ago

Like it or not, we are facing the end of "the free ride" as we've known it. It could start with pay as you read libraries or internet. But it is quite likely to end with only those who can pay getting police, fire or ambulance service. For far too many decades the government we support with our tax dollars has spent, and borrowed, more then was taken into the till. We're going bankrupt and soon. It now takes more money to make a penny then each one is worth. So, we either "pony up" and get used to paying for everything (at highly inflated values) or we figure out some way to tighten our collective belts and live without all the "needs" we've come to demand be met. How many people owe more then they save? Probably most. And the same is true of our government.

I love libraries, on=line or for real. Tapes, videos, analog books, I consumer them all. But if faced with a decision between eating or reading, I think I'll choose survival first. We need to be talking about what we can afford, and really need, not what would make us equal to or better then other places. The whole country is heading for a big fall if we don't stop spending money we're borrowing from our grandchildren....

Sheryl Wiggins 11 years, 11 months ago

Ward~I love it when someone quotes Daniel Burnham and I absolutely adore Chicago but I don't know that one can compare that city with little Lawrence KS. Nice try though!

Jackson 11 years, 11 months ago

If needed, Branch libraries would be the best solution.

Two branch libraries could be built for under $20 M., and would be infinitely more useful for most (real) library users.

Libraries, like schools, should be "neighborhood-friendly".

How about using the (now empty) "alternative" high school bldg. near Holcomb park?

Unfortunately, replacing the current downtown library (with another) would mostly benefit one of the property owner/ developers, rather than actual patrons.


freudian_slip 11 years, 11 months ago

Posted by Jackson (anonymous) on July 3, 2006 at 9:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If needed, Branch libraries would be the best solution.

Two branch libraries could be built for under $20 M., and would be infinitely more useful for most (real) library users.

Libraries, like schools, should be "neighborhood-friendly".


Branch libraries or expanding the existence location upwards are the only two feasible ideas here. Branches don't need to be fancy. They could be in simple strip mall locations that wouldn't cost much. They could build 2-3 branches, support them with staff and transfer vehicles for materials, and renovate parts of the old location for under $20M.

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