Library evolving into ‘third space’
Updated: April 29, 2013 2:15AM
Pam Leffler said a library is sometimes thought of as the “third space.”
The first two are home and work. But the library fills a gap and provides a place where people can get together, spend time and learn.
“I think that’s really true,” said Leffler, executive director of the Morton Grove Public Library. “So many people now are coming in and using that third space.”
As the library marks its 75th anniversary this year, Leffler took some time to look ahead, assess the strengths of the library and the ways it will meet the needs of the Morton Grove community in the future.
There are aspects of the library that already have evolved.
Once a haven primarily for book lovers, the library over the years has expanded its offerings with a heavy emphasis on technology.
The library offers desktop computers and WiFi access for users who bring their own notebook computers or other devices.
Its website also was recently updated to provide much more information.
Natalya Fishman, head of adult services, noted in a recent report a huge increase in the use of Media Mall, a service provided by the library that offers library cardholders e-books they can download to their own devices.
In October 2011 the total books check out through the system was 441. January of this year set a new record, 1,053.
Leffler said the library has become a place where people come not just to find books or even other materials such as DVDs. But it is a place where people gather to meet and talk and share ideas.
“These people may not be coming in to check out books,” she said. “They may be here for two or three hours using our WiFi.”
“We’ve seen an increasing number of people looking for digital content,” she added.
In response to the growing use of technology, Leffler said the library has added an array of computer programs, both classes and one-on-one tutorials.
“We do a lot of tech drop-ins where people can get assistance,” Leffler said.
Fishman said that in response to the needs of patrons, the library staff has become much more technologically capable. It makes them much more able to help library users who themselves do not know much about technology.
“We understand that not everybody is computer-adept. We all have to be very technologically savvy so we can help.”
Those are the kinds of services Leffler said would continue to grow, though whatever the library does will have to be done within the constraints of both the size of the building and available financial resources.
“There are space limitations. There are dollar limitations,” Leffler said. “There’s a balancing act. The challenge is really balancing all these things.”
Library officials have just started a renewed look at space issues, to find a way to maximize the use of the space that is available.
As part of that, Leffler said, they will be looking at future needs. It could mean some changes.
“We’ll look at our collection and the services we provide,” Leffler said. “Do we have fewer print resources in order to provide more meeting space, study space?
“The (library) board has been very supportive in looking at those issues,” Leffler added.
One way the library has and will continue to maximize its resources is by partnering with other, neighboring libraries.
Morton Grove is among five libraries that take part in a low-vision fair in the fall.
“That’s been very successful,” Leffler said.
Recently the library received a grant from the National Endowment of Humanities for a “Muslim Journeys Bookshelf” featuring books, DVDs and a year of free access to an Islamic database. Leffler said she is working with other libraries that also have gotten the grant to maximize its value.
“It’s just a small thing we can do to recognize and support the diversity of the community,” Leffler said.
One of the things the library has done well is provide both youth and adult programs.
“This is such a precarious time. Morton Grove is no different,” Leffler said.
“We work hard to do what we can for the residents of Morton Grove. They seem appreciative of it,” she added.
“We want to be the institution the community needs.”~.