We’ve found out over the years that one way to make a bunch of people angry is to take away their library. Another way to make them almost equally upset is to change their library and make it focus on ebooks.
That’s what Frank Novak, Executive Director of Rockford Public Library, proposed in two reports that were leaked to the public. The leaked reports can be viewed here and here. The documents describe a drastic change in focus to digital media for the library system. Print books would only be purchased if a digital version was not available. The change would require significant reallocation of library real estate and resources. Some examples are cutting salaries and benefits to 26% of budget from 57% while increasing materials spending from 14% to 39%. The idea being to reduce availability to print materials while dramatically increasing digital offerings. A community group, Save Our Rockford Library, released the reports to the public and is trying to gather outspoken opposition.
Protesters showed up in force at Rockford Public Library’s board meeting tonight in Illinois. They were organized by Save Our Rockford Library in an attempt to show strong opposition to the library’s plan to prioritize digital media. Thirty minutes were allocated for public comment. Many speakers received loud applause after voicing their opposition to the leaked plans.
It’s ironic that the community in Rockford is protesting too much focus on ebooks while most public libraries are scrambling to meet the demand of their patrons for more ebooks. Sales of ebooks passed all physical book sales on Amazon last year and ebook checkouts more than doubled at public libraries. It looks like it’s possible for libraries to make the decision to adopt ebooks too quickly.
The message in Rockford, IL is clear. You are destroying a library if you plan on transitioning it to focus on ebooks.