Technology and traditional materials mix it up at library
Morton Grove Library's new director Pam Leffler at her desk in July.
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:10AM
MORTON GROVE —Pam Leffler figures books won’t disappear from the shelves of the Morton Grove Public Library anytime soon.
At the same time, Leffler, the library’s new director, expects evolving technology will make it possible for the library to provide services that few people can even imagine today.
Striking the right balance between the two, she said, will be an important part of her job.
“It can be quite easy to just keep doing what you’re doing,” Leffler said. “One of the things I want to do is take a step back and say, ‘Where are we focusing? What can we do we are not doing?’”
Leffler took over as executive director July 2. She replaced Ben Shapiro who left in 2011 following a dispute with the newly elected library board.
In the absence of a full-time director, two staffers shared interim director duties. Leffler said that while day-to-day operations ran smoothly, there was no one to make major decisions.
“There are a number of things that have been on hold,” Leffler said. “The co-directors did an outstanding job, but at that point your doing the day-to-day jobs.
“There are more big-picture type things I’m starting to look at that I now have to be addressed,” she said.
Among those is the library building. A lack of space has been a problem, though library board members elected last year oppose any expensive options, such as a new building or an addition, both ideas the board had been studying.
Leffler said that while more space may not be available, the library could benefit from technologies such as e-books that do not require shelf space.
“We’re not bound by our four walls like we used to be,” she said. “Things like e-books are going to get more popular.
“We have to look at how we can incorporate the new technology into the services we provide to our patrons,” she said. “We have to continually keep an eye on things they might ask for, things they may not know they want yet, that they’re not aware of.”
But so far, electronic books make up only a small portion of the materials used by library patrons, Leffler said.
In addition, she said, it is primarily younger patrons who use electronic services and she noted there may always be people who like to hold an actual book while reading.
“For the foreseeable future there’s going to be a strong market for the physical things we have in the library, books in particular,” she said. “That’s a technology, if you will, that everybody knows how to use.”
An aspect of serving Morton Grove that Leffler said is both a challenge and opportunity is trying to meet the needs of an ethnically diverse community.
With the library’s limited resources and space restrictions, it can’t have everything for everybody. But library officials, she said, need to look at needs and try to meet them.
“We do need to look at ways we can engage these other populations and look at what they might need in a library and how we can accommodate that or not accommodate that,” she said.
Where the library can’t provide a service, Leffler said, it might be able to at least serve as a source for services from other facilities or organizations that can meet a given need.
Leffler foresees some changes, such as a move to smart phones and other mobile devices. Some people now access the Internet on those types of gadgets and don’t even own desktop or laptop computers.
But for some time, at least, she expects books to remain the library’s bread and butter.
“Pundits for 150 years have been predicting the demise of the book and that hasn’t happened yet. I’m fairly confident that’s not going to happen in my lifetime,” she said.
“But things are changing in ways we didn’t even imagine,” Leffler said. “At some point maybe we won’t have print. That being said reading isn’t going away. That’s for sure.”