My name is Mariël Geens. I’m from Ghent, Belgium and I work mainly in the music and film department of the district library of Deurne, Antwerp (500 000+ inhabitants). Deurne has some 75 000 potential patrons of 130 nationalities on 13km2. I take care of the language learning section and of our collection of German fiction.
The future of music and film in the library, the future of the library where I work and the future of the public library in general. I’m passionate too about the future role, necessary skills and needs of the front-office library assistant (or technician) in the library 2.0. So I guess my focus (if you can call it that, see below) will be very much: the future.
Our library is housed in a protected monument of 70s library architecture and there are plans to renovate, even restyle it. But we are on a budget and there are building restrictions. We like our vintage library but we would also like to improve it. We are now figuring out what our role as a library for the people of Deurne will be. I’m interested to know how other libraries in a similar situation (plan to) tackle this, given the cuts in public spending, the pressure of introducing RFID/automated loan vs. the social aspects of our work, the rise of e-books, Spotify and Netflix? How do we saveguard our identity and reinvent ourselves at the same time, how do we to continue to address the needs of our patrons? How do we find out those needs? Do we serve everyone or only special target groups?
I read an article in the most recent issue of the blessed Scandinavian Library Quarterly entitled The public library’s collection in a digital age, which provided me with an angle for my two main issues. If we are indeed to move from a collection oriented library to a citizen-centered library (as the writer of the article claims) what will be our role as front-office library staff? How do we know our collection, and what collection will that be? Will there still be one? How do we advise our patrons? Will they need our advice?
Especially considering the fact that in our library network most back-office work is centralized but our culture policy is not. Like me, many of my co-workers have college or university degrees and a library certificate or degree. We are passionate about what library work we are still able to do in between checking items. Will our skills and talents continue to be needed and, if not, is there time and a budget to change that? Will we be able to use those newly acquired skills? What if organizing, presenting, teaching a group or networking are not our forte? Which talents and skills can we develop, can we use other talents as yet underdeveloped? How do we learn other skills? Will cuts force us to do even less? Will RFID solve that problem? What do we need from our superiors to have job satisfaction and to continue to serve citizens the way we would like to and the way they deserve to be served?