More Books: Craig Buthod on the Future of Libraries

Louisville officials on Monday night will unveil the designs for a new Southwest Regional Library. The library will be in Valley Station and is meant to be a source of information and a meeting place for 100,000 nearby residents.

“I think the library’s going to become one of the most important, if not the most important public outpost in that part of the community,” said Craig Buthod, director of Louisville Free Public Library.

 

Buthod says the design will incorporate many ideas suggested by southwest Louisville residents. Those include more natural light, larger meeting rooms, areas for younger visitors—and more books.

“Lots of people are coming into the library to check out books,” Buthod said. “Our Southwest Regional library will have a strong book collection and will have daily use for that collection. 3.5 million books were checked out this year. We know people still crave good reading on paper.”

 

The rise of e-readers may take its toll on bookstores, but the demand for free access to information, whether digital or analog, remains strong, Buthod says. He adds that once people get access to that information, they tend to want more.

 

Books are a big part of the library system’s future, but not the only part. Buthod says the libraries-as-community-spaces effort continues, and after the Southwest Regional Library — which will be at Dixie Highway and Kendall Road and is slated to open next year — new regional libraries are coming in south-central and northeast Louisville. Repairs and renovations are planned for neighborhood libraries, too.

 

“The library is extending itself more in the community,” Buthod says. And while ‘more books’ is the most common request he hears from patrons, he says the libraries will provide more than books, from help with resumes to health information to helping kids “finding a place where they can be safe after school to pursue education.”

 

The Internet has made encyclopedias, maps, any number of once-essential information tools irrelevant by providing their content for free. Newspapers and magazines (and TV stations and radio stations and zines and newsletters and postcards and phone calls) are on the endangered list, and it’s long been easy to put libraries on that list as well — or at least to forget what libraries provide.

 

It takes innovation get off that list, but innovation for the sake of survival doesn’t always serve the greatest good. We’re entering a time when information is not as free as it used to be. Paywalls have gone up on news sites, and despite advances in sharing technology, passing an ebook from one Kindle to the next isn’t nearly as easy as handing a paperback to your friend. But libraries are tasked with serving the public good. And if the future of media is paid content, Buthod says the library will be ready.

 

“We have a role in delivering electronic content for free,” he says. “We’re investing in that a lot right now.”

 

Gabe Bullard

Gabe Bullard is the director of news and editorial strategy.

@gbullard

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