by Jim Scheppke, State Librarian, Oregon State Library
I thought my SLA colleagues might be interested in learning a bit about public libraries that are future ready and what that looks like.
We just had a new public library open across the Columbia River from us in Vancouver, Washington, that is future ready. When you walk in you won’t see any service counters. There aren’t any. That’s because the library staff are all on their feet, engaging customers at their point of need. And I mean all of the public service staff. The old hierarchies between librarians and support staff are gone too. The staff use hands-free voice technology from Vocera so they can work together and share everyone’s knowledge and ability to serve customers.
The situation is similar at the new Kenton Branch of the Multnomah County Library back across the river in Portland. No circ desk! Library users check out their own materials at the convenient RFID circulation stations. Public service staff carry around an iPad using a special glove-like holder to assist customers. Who needs a desk when you literally have the Web in the palm of your hand?
What used to be called “desk reference” is dead. The desks are gone in these future ready libraries. The new trend is “roving reference” – high tech and high touch. And yes, we have mobile reference – chat and text – too. Customers love it. Who says the public sector can’t provide world-class customer service. We are doing it here in Oregon and Washington.
Jim Scheppke has been State Librarian of Oregon since 1991. He’s worked at the Oregon State Library since 1986, and before that at the Texas State Library and the West Texas Library System. Before becoming a librarian he worked as an independent bookseller. He has served as president of the Oregon Library Association and of the Western Council of State Libraries , and has written numerous articles for professional library publications.
He was named Oregon Library Association Librarian of the Year in 1996. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oregon Association of School Libraries in 2001 and was named Honorary Life Member of the Oregon Library Association in 2011. He holds an Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin.