Embrace technology, not bricks and mortar | AspenTimes.com

Embrace technology, not bricks and mortar

Dear Editor:

The Pitkin County Library’s proposed $10 million building plan is poor value for county taxpayers and a backward-looking bet for the county’s children.

Please vote “no” on ballot questions 5A and 5B, and consider the following:

1) In the Internet age, the library’s “bricks-and-mortar”-based vision for the future is out of step.

The Internet now offers numerous low-cost opportunities for libraries to trump their physical limitations by leveraging the virtual bookshelves and resources on the Web. Today, the largest new demand on libraries is for easy-to-use public Web portals. It’s all about e-books, remote access, community bulletin boards, free Wi-Fi and online blogs and discussions.

The library already knows this. The fastest-growing service it offers (more than 100 percent annual growth since 2009) is the e-book portal provided in conjunction with the Colorado library consortium (known as the Marmot Library Network).

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The library’s current $5 million reserve is more than enough to double down on such online resources and free Wi-Fi (out to the plaza) as well as tech-savvy staff to support these initiatives.

2) Listen to the next generation.

A friend’s 4-year-old recently picked up a magazine from the couch. She looked at the cover and began moving her fingers across the pictures.

“Doesn’t work,” she said. “What’s wrong with it?”

Yup, for today’s 4-year-olds (and I suspect a lot of their older siblings), magazines are tablets that don’t work. They live in a world where classroom assignments (and grades) are posted online (or tweeted), where textbooks are e-books and where Google and Wikipedia have long since replaced World Book and Britannica for “library” research.

Ask Aspen’s children what they want. More bookshelves or an iPad of their own? Let’s make our library into a digital learning hub for kids and parents alike. Let’s explore replacing library cards with tablets. And commission smart library apps that keep the user engaged and curious so that the world of books and journals comes alive inside and outside the walls of the library itself.

Start small, if you like, with a pilot program and a few hundred tablets. And partner with local educators and philanthropists to create a library of the future that will resonate with users of all ages. After all, this is a town famous for talking about (and implementing) new ideas !

And the best way to begin a real discussion about his type of 21st century library service (and many others) is to “just say no” to the current building campaign.

Gregory Staple

Aspen