Brad Allen, the new director of the Lawrence Public Library, comes to town as the library is about to undergo a $19 million expansion and just in time to have an impact on some key decisions about that project.
The Topeka native worked for the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library before becoming a branch manager and program coordinator in the Everett, Wash., library system. He received his undergraduate degree from Kansas University, a master’s of library and information science from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and a master’s of Afro-American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
During his interview last month, Allen stressed the importance of making the library a center of creativity. Allen envisions the library of the future as having plenty of books but also providing areas for budding filmmakers, aspiring recording artists and other creative types who need access to computer technology to edit and finish their pieces.
Allen admits there are challenges for libraries. These include finding a balance between serving as an archive for important documents and creating an environment where users can “browse and discover delightful things.” It also will be important to work with publishing companies to ensure libraries have the opportunity to buy eBooks and other digital content, which has been more difficult for libraries to obtain than traditional books.
In just about every aspect of its operation, the Lawrence Public Library will need to embrace new technology to provide the best service and opportunities for its patrons. Allen appears to have the right experience and outlook to lead the library at this important time. Welcome to Lawrence, Mr. Allen.