Bob Dylan encapsulated our current situation when he said, "the times they are a-changin'."
Much has changed since I wrote my last column. Of course, the current big change is COVID-19. However, an even bigger change has slowly been occurring over the past twenty years. Our print world of books, newspapers, magazines, and large library buildings is being overtaken by smartphone screens, web sites, and WiFi. When the shutdown occurred in March, MPL decided to take a moment to pause and reflect how the world has changed and how we as a library had to face some hard facts.
During the past 20 years, MPL has recorded that adult book usage has declined by over 60% while demand for meeting and collaboration space, internet usage, and access to multimedia has increased to represent over 30% of our service activity. So during the pandemic shutdown, and after much deliberation, the MPL board decided to revise how we offer services not only during the pandemic but, more importantly, afterward.
We reorganized the library to combine all of the physical material collection to the ground level (Children’s and Young Adult) and main floors (non-fiction, fiction, large print, and magazines). And along the way remodeled the main floor by removing 30-year-old carpeting and wallpaper and opening up the space to take advantage of the natural light provided by our iconic windows. With the reorganization and renovations now complete and our doors reopened (albeit with some changed policies), we hope our patrons will share our excitement of the new open main floor layout housing both fiction and nonfiction collections.
Post pandemic, we plan to re-open the top floor as a dedicated space for study, meetings, collaboration, digital creation, and technology. It will be an adjustment for all of us to get used to the new layout, but change is also a natural part of a library’s evolution. The Meadville Public Library has always been known as a library that keeps up with the times when they are a-changin'.