As municipalities slash funding, libraries are looking for ways to remain available to their constituents despite drastic staff cuts and reduced branch hours. In Trenton, shuttered branches are being reopened and renamed “learning center libraries” that are staffed largely by volunteers. (Technically, they can’t be called libraries unless they are administered by the library board.) The increasing reliance on unpaid workers, including part-time volunteers and even schoolchildren willing to lend a hand, can’t replace the know-how of an experienced librarian, but it can at least to keep some of the services going. The use of volunteers will be a key discussion topic at the conference in Anaheim, and the issue over privatizing is also likely to be a point of contention. Not surprisingly, many librarians are opposed to outsourcing their public institutions to private companies, when it is unclear if it will result in meaningful cost savings. But at this point, any option is on the table if it can help keep the doors open.
How Libraries are Reinventing Themselves for the Future
Many branches of these public institutions are dying from lack of funding—and reinventing themselves in surprising new ways