Re-Imagining Small and Rural Library Space

Ken Roberts Library Consulting,

The Widening Gap, Large Urban Public Libraries and Small Rural Public Libraries — Final Report

“The gap bw services provided by large, urban Canadian public libraries and those offers by small, rural library systems is growing. The Panel is concerned that many of Canada’s rural public library boards may lose their ability to provide even minimal services.” -Expert Panel on the Future of Canada’s Libraries and Archives

Provential and Territorial Public Library Directors group (I think that’s what it was called)

Small Libraries Project: All Canadian Provinces & Territories, Main Issues

  • Huge land mass makes provision of bandwidth difficult
  • Thousands of very small, underfunded libraries
  • Some boards still see a Mission of lending books

Changing Library Services

  • less abt physical objects loaned for individual consumption
  • More about connecting curious minds

Signs of need

  • Manitoba Study of Young Adults (how using Internet — found for rural youth: collaborative gameplay hard bc of bandwidth issues; friend communication not there; no data plans)
  • Youth Migration — don’t have access to tools online and entertainment that urban youth are using
  • Message: budget may be limited for trad’l function but is there a match to strategic priorities
  • Wifi in parking lots after hours — library is access point
  • Migrant farm workers and wifi after hours — huge benefit. Skyping with family back home.
  • Opportunities that ebooks represent — need mechanism to deliver these, or lose relevancy. Wouldn’t have to drive distances, access library during limited hours; could use lib services 24 hrs/day

Limited budgets but…

  • Are there local strategic priorities that match new possibilities?
  • Community priority and needs
    • youth retention
    • on-line learning
    • access to global marketplace
    • participation in global conversations
    • entertainment (things to do)
    • (and more in his slides)

Checklist for Bandwidth Priorities

  • cellphone services and data
  • wired broadband
  • wifi broadband
  • data limitations

A Taste of Some Content: Library/Pirate Box

Can a 1,000 square foot library provide the services of a 3,000 square foot library? — Danish Open Library Model

  • 80 libraries in 2009
  • 160 libraries in 2013
  • Small Space. Multiple Uses.
  • Community Decisions about “Third Space”
  • How does it work (reference article)
  • Modification of Danish Model for North America…use of access cards instead of library cards? Trusted partners — can access library when it’s not open — Danish model, they do have a single id card there.

Taking traditional library space (1800 sq feet) and transform to meet library needs. 

  • Creation of relaxed noisy space close to door so that people don’t see a desk when passing by
  • Same space with shelving model so that a meeting can occur. If computers were laptops, they could be locked into staff room
  • Shelving on wheels, to transform space to meet needs
  • If space is small, we have to reuse space in a lot of diff ways, so small libs can take advantage of trends in larger libs

Planning Guide — for using small space in libraries

  • Will be completed by the end of this year
  • Will be released sometime next year
  • Watch for it my website:
  • Project stages; measurements; ways in which lib boards can renovate space
  • Libraries be located on busy streets and use windows to sell library — light library so people know when it’s open.

What happens when bandwidth goes down? Solving bandwidth problem

  • One library: MiFi device available for staff if local ISP goes down, as a backup for the library; Municipal govt — reduced rate for MiFi for backup issue.
  • Critical service
  • Advocates for bandwidth in the community and impt to municipalities — frame it in education, youth retention — why strat. impt to communities; secure $$ to make bandwidth available.

Staff side of small libraries question

  • repetitive tasks — figure out how every ounce of staff time can be used to maximum effect. Automating. Use volunteers & community experts

What to do about technology services & expertise in small libraries?

  • Public service stations — individual consumption and learning focus; single user; passive user. Public access computers are setup as people are still using the tech, but people are not using them this way. Laptops may be a way to save space — no dedicated computer space. Chromebooks…less expensive. If one isn’t working, it isn’t visible. Could be used all over the library/outside the library. May be easier to fix. Valuable space isn’t be used either.

Internet2 Project –– Grant to IMLS for small libraries; deploying to networking engineers from universities & state regional education networks. Spend a day going through a checklist, assessing current broadband capacity issues, identify issues to fix. Small scale pilot project.

Municipalities are beginning to see broadband is impt, but libraries aren’t always at the table for that discussion