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Library Leaders Face Tough Choices

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMW-CY-1L5w

Video published January 7, 2011 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: America's libraries are being forced to redefine and advocate for their continuing value in society. Here in San Diego, public library hours have been cut at a time when library use is at an all time high. Roberta Stevens, President of the American Library Association, talks about the organization's plans to address challenges and identify solutions.

Guest

Roberta Stevens, President of the American Library Association.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

AMERICAN'S LIBRARIES ARE BEING FORCED TO REDEFINE AND ADVOCATE FOR THEIR VALUE IN SOCIETY. SAN DIEGO PUBLIC LIBRARY HOURS HAVE BEEN CUT AND NEW BUDGET PROPOSALS MAY CALL FOR THE CLOSING OF SOME. THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION IS GATHERING TO DISCUSS CHALLENGES AND IDENTIFY SOLUTIONS AND THEY ARE IN SAN DIEGO. ROBERTA STEVENS IS PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN LIBRARIES ASSOCIATION. SHE JOINS ME NOW. THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE. HOW ARE LIBRARIES AROUND THE COUNTRY FAIRING IN THE COUNTRY?

I WOULD SAY THE GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS STORY. THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT THERE'S NO LONGER ANY QUESTION ABOUT WHY DO WE HAVE LIBRARIES, WHY DO WE NEED THEM. WE HAVE THE HIGHEST USAGE WE HAVE EVER HAVE IT. CONTINUES TO ESCALATE, DOUBLE DIGIT INCREASES. THAT'S THE GOOD NEWS. BAD NEWS, JUST LIKE OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY, LIBRARIES ARE BEING AFFECTED BY CUTS IN FUNDING. THAT'S BECAUSE OF DECREASED TAX REVENUES, ET CETERA. WE ARE CLEARLY IMPACTED BY WHAT'S GOING ON ON A NATIONAL GLOBAL SCALE.

WHY IS IT LIBRARIES ARE BEING USED MORE BEFORE? WHAT'S HAPPENED?

IT REFLECT WAS WE SEE HAPPENING IN TERMS OF THERE'S LESS MONEY FOR PEOPLE. THEY THINK CAREFULLY. THEY USE THEIR LIBRARY. THEY SAY WHY AM I BUYING A BOOK OR ACCESSING AN E BOOK WHEN I CAN GET THIS DOWNLOADED TO MY KINDLE FROM THE LIBRARY. IT'S A GOOD ECONOMIC CHOICE. THERE'S OTHER ROAN --REASONS. PEOPLE ARE COMING INTO THE LIBRARY TO DO JOB HUNTING, TO TIME ONLINE APPLICATION FORMS AND USE OUR VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE AND TALENTED STAFF FOR INFORMATION AND NAVIGATION THROUGH THIS COMPLEX WORLD THAT WE ENCOUNTER ON THE INTERNET. THERE'S A LOT OF INFORMATION. WHAT'S USEFUL INFORMATION. HOW DO I USE MY TIME WISELY.

IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO BE TALKING ABOUT DURING THE CONFERENCE IN SAN DIEGO?

WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT THOSE ISSUES, AND THEY ARE IMPORTANT, HOW DO WE ADVOCATE FOR OUR LIBRARIES OF ALL SORTS --SCHOOL LIBRARIES, PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND PACK DEMIC LIBRARIES. IT IS CHANGING SO RAPIDLY. IT'S MOST IMPORTANT THAT WE BE AHEAD OF THE CURVE ON WHAT IS OCCURRING WITH THE NEW TECHNOLOGY.

YOU TALKED ABOUT THE ECONOMY. WE ALL HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT. SO THE LIBRARIES WILL HAVE TO DO MORE WITH LESS. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

THEY ARE DOING MORE WITH LESS ALREADY. I THINK AT SOME POINT YOU CAN REACH THE JUNCTURE WHERE YOU CAN'T DO ANYMORE THAN YOU'RE DOING. WHAT LIBRARIES HAVE BEEN DOING IS WHAT YOU'VE SEEN IN SAN DIEGO, CUTS IN HOURS TO ACCOMMODATE THE LOWER BUDGET, BUT THE PROBLEM IS EVERY TIME YOU CUT HOURS, YOU'RE SHUTTING OUT THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE. THERE'S 1.4 BILLION VISITS TO LIBRARIES EVERY YEAR AND THAT CONTINUES TO'S CA LAI. 2 BILLION ITEMS CIRCULATED EVERY YEAR. OUR BUSINESS IS HUGE. YOU CUT OUR HOURS AND YOU CUT SERVICES TO PEOPLE.

IT'S HUGE BUT ALSO EVER CHANGING AS THE TECHNOLOGY CHANGES. SO HOW WILL LIBRARIES RETOOL TO ACCOMMODATE THE CHANGES?

THEY CONSULT OBVIOUSLY WITH THE USERS. THEY WATCH THE USER TREND. THEY'RE OFFERING THE SERVICES AND READJUSTING THEIR SERVICES TO ACCOMMODATE WHAT IT IS THAT PEOPLE NEED, HOW THEY NEED IT, AND THAT IS WHAT HAS BEEN CHANGING. E BOOKS OH IN 2009, 45% OF THE PUBLIC LIBRARIES OFFERED E BOOKS. IN 2009 IT WAS 55%. CONTINUES TO ESCALATE. WE ARE EVER EVOLVING OUR SERVICES TO ADDRESS THE CHANGES.

IN SAN DIEGO WE'RE DOING SOMETHING THAT'S DIFFERENT IN THIS ENVIRONMENT DESPITE ALL THE CHALLENGES. WE'RE BUILDING A MAJOR DOWNTOWN LIBRARY. HOW RARE IS IT NOW FOR CITIES TO BE DEVOTING THEIR PRECIOUS RESOURCES TO BUILDING BIG LIBRARIES?

NOT RARE AT ALL AND NOT REQUIRE ALSO FOR PUBLIC LIBRARIES TO BE TAKING EXISTING BRANCH LIBRARIES. WHERE I LIVE THEY TOOK THE OLDER ONES, LEVELED THEM TO THE GROUND AND REBUILT THEM. THEY'RE BUILDING THEM TO REFLECT THE CHANGES IN TERMS OF HOW LIBRARIES ARE USED. WE'RE IN THE JUST INSTITUTIONS. THERE'S A LOT OF GROUP USAGE. CLEARLY THE IMPACT OF HAVING COMPUTERS IN LIBRARIES HAS BEEN ENORMOUS. WHEN PEOPLE SAY WHY DO YOU NEED THE LIBRARY, HAVE YOU BEEN IF A LIBRARY LATELY? YOU COME IN AND THE PLACE IS PACKED.

QUICKLY, WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE LIBRARY? WHAT DO YOU SEE?

I THINK THE FUTURE OF LIBRARIES IS VERY GOOD. WE'LL GET PAST THIS BUM IN OUR ECONOMY. WE ARE OURSELVES AS AN ASSOCIATION AND A PROFESSION, RETOOLING OURSELVES SO WE'RE READY.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THIS WAS MY FLESH OF PLEASURE --MY PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

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