The Herald Bulletin

May 21, 2012

Editorial: Libraries must adapt to serve communities

— The common charge against public libraries is that they don’t keep up with change in this Internet-ready, Kindle-savvy, community service-minded world.

However, the Anderson Public Library seems to be addressing community service with its proposal to remodel a room on the third floor. The area, presently used for a monthly book sale, would be changed to provide for more public meeting space. The current estimate is $378,463 though library officials plan to issue bids for the project.

In December, the library board of trustees adopted a long-range plan that presents numerous goals for the facility through 2014.

The plan finds, “We are in competition with our customers for our own space. This has caused us to miss out on programming opportunities in the past because our rooms were already booked by outside groups.”

In May alone, there were 23 programs open to the public, each using space in the facility at 111 E. 12th St. That does not include private gatherings where companies and agencies use meeting rooms. In May, 45 reservations have so far been made to use the six meeting rooms. Fees are charged depending on whether a group is outside the library district or whether it’s a not-for-profit, among other guidelines.

The Friends of Anderson Public Library is among those using a room in the building. Every second Friday and Saturday of the month, the Friends volunteers host a popular, well-attended book sale. Through the sale, the Friends have donated over $450,000 since 1992, including $25,000 in 2011, mostly for programs and author visits. The sales are held in a large room on the third floor.

The book sale room could lose 25 percent of its area under the plan.

The Friends certainly have a critical stake in the public reputation of the library. Their commitment helps keep the library in good standing with the public.

But some Friends have voiced concern over the expansion. They don’t want to lose space since their book sale helps provide crucial funding for programs.

Most patrons, however, would sense that the remodeling is sound if the library’s community goal is taken as a whole. The $378,000 estimate currently seems high but the bidding process could lower the cost.

Certainly, the Friends of the Anderson Public Library needs space to store and sell used books, records, DVDs and other material. But library supporters and staff must be flexible in this ever-changing world to keep public facilities relevant.