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MIT appoints new director of libraries

by Public Libraries on November 25, 2014


The league of schools within which MIT, Stanford, and others like them exist is an exclusive one to be sure. It represents the upper echelon of traditional academia. Part of the challenge of maintaining this image means hiring nothing but the best staff and faculty to ensure that the institution continues to move forward and upward. This past Friday, MIT took that step in appointing a new director of its massive library system.

Chris Bourg, who has been named the woman for the job, comes from an associate director role at Stanford already, and is no stranger to the large systems experience such libraries require. In fact, Stanford’s libraries that Bourg currently holds watch over contain more than four million volumes within its library walls.

A large part of this move comes from the much-discussed evolution of the modern library. Bourg, say officials, is no stranger to the digital evolution of libraries. In fact, one reason she was chosen for the position includes her ability to move libraries forward and leverage new technologies. More and more, students are looking to ebooks and web resources to complete assignments. When one can simply search a journal database article for relevant keywords online, libraries that only allow for traditional book and print research may actually slow students down as the capabilities of modern research lead professors to set shorter and shorter deadlines.

Another of Bourg’s responsibility is MIT’s press, which is currently one of the largest presses at a university in the entire world. The university prints a wide range of academic journals, textbooks, and all kinds of scholarly work throughout the year to be used by both its own students and those all over the world.

On a sadder note, the appointment follows upon the heels of the death of MIT’s former director, Ann Wolpert. She passed away last year at the age of 70, leaving behind a 17 year legacy as the university’s library director. The successful conclusion of the search to find her a successor has taken an entire year.

Bourg actually attended Duke University, another highly regarded institution in the U.S., before moving on to complete a Masters at the University of Maryland, and finally a PhD in sociology from Stanford. She also spent 10 years serving in the U.S. army, part of which involved teaching at the prestigious Westpoint Academy.

She would go on to spend 12 years in various library roles at Stanford, each with increasing responsibilities until she found herself directing the largest (six-branch) system there. In her MIT role, Bourg is slated to keep watch over roughly 280 employees, not a small undertaking, to be sure. MIT’s system includes five physical locations. The libraries hold everything from audiobooks to textbooks to journal subscriptions to images and beyond. With changing technology, this assortment continues to change and evolve. The faculty at the university is optimistic and hopeful that Bourg can add another successful chapter to her already impressive career.


New library in San Diego gets a new director

by Public Libraries on November 19, 2014


San Diego, as many other cities, is looking to bring its library system into the 21st century.  Of course, that’s no easy task when the very definition of the technological cutting edge – in the library world and in every other sector – changes from day to day.  Rapid advancements in both the needs of community users and the services that libraries can provide have driven rapid turnover within the past decade.

In order to help supervise the opening of the $185 million downtown library, the city of San Diego has flown in Misty Jones, of South Carolina, to help them bring their dream to life.  Jones, who was appointed interim director in July, knows she has some “big shoes to fill.”  She’s not only overseeing the new library’s opening phases, but is also in charge of all 36 libraries that are part of the system for now.

For what it’s worth, Jones received a master’s degree in Library Science while attending the University of South Carolina.  In South Carolina, she would go on to lead two different library systems in her career before moving to California for this most recent project.

Jones is obviously experienced in library management, and those hiring her recognized this.  That said, the scale of the system and the project she’s taking on will definitely be a step up.  Jones says she’s thrilled with the opportunity, and isn’t afraid of the challenges ahead; she knows there are plenty of groups (including the Friends of the San Diego Public Library) who are rooting for her success, and who have the resources and experience to help her navigate her new job – and location.

Jones made a point of recognizing that one of the strengths of libraries “is their ability to redefine themselves to fit public need.”  Many would agree that this trait isn’t just a strength, it’s the very key to libraries as a system continuing to survive and be relevant.  Library systems that haven’t adopted newer technologies often find themselves struggling.  Not only do they suffer in terms of patronage, but their lower perceived usefulness to a community often also translates into receiving less funding from government sources.  This situation can quickly spiral, with one factor continuously exacerbating the other, and vice versa.

Libraries that have embraced ebooks, tablets, and other modern learning tools have often seen a boost in popularity in recent years.  Previously struggling systems suddenly find themselves flooded with visitors.  That said, the pace at which technology continues to change may be a problem, none but the luckiest (and wealthiest) of library systems can hope to keep up with each new version of an iPad, or a highly complete and regularly updated database of digital materials.

Jones is expected to have a salary around $150,000 per year (based upon her predecessor) and is fortunate to be taking over a popular system.  Of course, her value to that library system will ultimately be determined by its users and taxpayers.  We wish her the best of luck.


Detroit gets its first Little Free Library

November 11, 2014
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Ever heard of a Little Free Library?  If not, you’ve probably seen one as you’ve driven or walked around. They are probably the world’s smallest libraries.  In fact, there are over 20,000 of them worldwide now, with a high concentration of them located in the US. These “little free libraries” function as the name implies; they’re basically oversized mailboxes – though usually decorated or built out of nice wood – […]

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Community funding can really help libraries in need

November 5, 2014
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With the economic roller coaster of the past decade still very much in focus, state budgets are often cutting costs wherever they can.  Unfortunately some lawmakers deem libraries as “non-essential” parts of government services.  This can mean a severe shortfall in the amount of funding received versus the amount needed. In Springfield, Missouri, however, community funding efforts organized by groups formed to help promote library activities are helping to supplement […]

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Florida library program looks to encourage young authors

October 27, 2014
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Remember the days of free library programs? Once upon a time, not too long ago, children especially could find a variety of programs at their local libraries ranging from help with school studies, to story times, to workshops, to crafting tutorials. These types of programs represented the heyday of the library as a treasured local fixture… and they’re making a comeback. Nowhere is this more true than in Florida, at […]

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Students get an excuse slip if they cannot access a library computer

October 20, 2014
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If you don’t have a computer, you can’t do your homework. That’s the dilemma many kids are running into in Miami, Florida – and across the country these days. It’s a big reason the South Dade Library computer laboratory has been crowded to capacity on most school nights. Christina Morua is a mother of two young children who do not have the luxury of the internet in their home. Many […]

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Ohio library system gets more visitors by offering more than books

October 14, 2014
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Across the United States, libraries have had to become more than just a place to check out books. It’s no different for the Licking County Library in Newark, Ohio. Patrons are now coming to the library to go online and view information on the internet, watch movies, and even participate in a yoga session. Director of the Licking County Library, Babette Wofter said it is the job of the library […]

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Robots are coming to a library near you

October 6, 2014
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Libraries are becoming more and more high tech with ebooks, tablets, and virtual visits. But one feature at the Wesport Library in Connecticut is straight out of science fiction. The library will introduce a pair of toddler-sized robots named Vincent and Nancy. With flashing lights for eyes, an ability to sing, dance, and speak 19 different languages, the newest additions are expected to create a lot of excitement. Library officials […]

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How much space should libraries dedicate to physical books?

September 29, 2014
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When Bob Jewett goes to the Georgetown library, he usually picks up a handful of books, a few magazines, and his daily newspaper. The one thing you won’t see him picking up is an ebook or, more correctly, an ebook reader. At 78-years-old Jewett prefers large print paperbacks, not computer, tablet, or phone screens. Delaware libraries are quickly changing, however, with full computer labs, ebooks, and digital classes, it’s actually […]

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New York City libraries want 10 year funding plan

September 22, 2014
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Whenever it rains in New York City, workers at the Sheepshead Bay library rush to move computers and valuables into another room to avoid a leaky roof. The leaks have been so bad in the past, in fact, that patrons have had to walk through knee deep puddles of rain. Library branch manager Svetlana Negrimovskaya said the city’s libraries are in maintenance crisis mode. It comes at an inopportune time […]

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