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.