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Library technology expert Stephens addresses city and library leaders

Dec. 8, 2011

 Library technology expert Stephens addresses city and library leaders

AURORA – Dr. Michael Stephens, assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University*, told close to 70 community and Aurora Public Library leaders on Dec. 7 that

five words will be of particular import in the library of the future: community, creativity, collaboration, curiosity and connectivity.

Stephens spoke in a library-sponsored presentation at the Hampton Inn & Suites on Aurora’s far West side to a group that included Mayor Tom Weisner, aldermen Abby Schuler (First Ward), Lynda Elmore (Tenth Ward), Whitey Peters (Fifth Ward) and Rick Mervine (Eighth Ward), and representatives from city government, school districts, the library’s Citizens Advisory Group, the business community and library representatives including board president Jeffry Butler.

After the presentation, attendees participated in roundtable discussions that sparked feedback about the technological needs of a new Aurora Public Library.

Land for a new main library has been purchased at the corner of River and Benton streets in downtown Aurora and the library board is embarking on the design phase of a larger, state-of-the-art building.

Stephens’ research focuses on the use of emerging technologies in libraries and technology learning programs. He writes a monthly column in Library Journal that explores issues, ideas and emerging trends in library and information science education. Stephens has spoken about emerging technologies, innovation, and libraries to audiences in more than 26 states and in five countries.

Stephens said he was well aware there are people who feel that because of the World Wide Web, libraries have served their purpose and no longer are needed.

But he noted that in its early days, the telephone “freaked people out” because they feared face-to-face interaction would cease. But the telephone was just like other new gadgets and devices that have surfaced through the years, he said: “People get used to them.” 

Stephens addressed the challenge of how one “designs a library when print books are no longer its core business.”

He answered the challenge with an observation: “The core values of librarianship have stayed the same, but the tools are constantly changing”; and an educated guess: “In public libraries, I don’t think books will go away for a long, long time, although academic libraries are getting rid of them now.”

He sees libraries continuing on as places for literacy and learning; “but connected learning spaces, if you will,” he said.

He also sees libraries in the role of helping people find and take care of data – as always – except they may soon be in the business of the curating and stewardship of geospatial information.

Stephens also envisions the library as being the go-to place for the public to learn about existing and emerging technologies. He envisions “genius bars” where people can bring their electronic gadgets to learn to use them. Like other libraries around the world, Aurora Public Library is busy daily helping patrons transfer e-books onto their devices.

He also touted the importance of libraries’ teen spaces, saying that “what starts there will be everywhere.”

Audience members who participated in the roundtables listed a number of things they would like to see in the new Aurora Public Library. Among them were:

One group said their goal for a future Aurora Public Library is that it be the “guardian of the community memory.”

* San Jose State University is the founding campus of the California State University (CSU) system, and holds the distinction of being the oldest public institution of higher education on the West Coast of the United States.

San Jose State University claims to provide Silicon Valley firms with more engineering, computer science and business graduates than any other college or university, and philanthropic support of SJSU is among the highest in the CSU system. –Wikipedia

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