Bytes instead of books could be the future of county’s libraries


Gigabytes and RAM rather than bricks and mortar might be the Washington County Library system’s future.

At least one Washington County commissioner wants WCL administrators to look more closely at technology when developing a long-range plan for the county’s libraries.
“I’m not seeing a strong enough digital aspect of the plan,” said Commissioner Gary Kriesel during a Tuesday workshop looking at the WCL’s long-range plan first developed in 2009.

But WCL Executive Director Patricia Conley said technology changes so fast that it’s hard for system officials to know how it could affect the county’s libraries.
“At this point, this is not something we can predict. We don’t necessarily know how technology will impact us. The market is still in flux and we don’t know where the market is going,” she said.

One example of changing technology Conley cited is massive open online courses (MOOCS) created by the University of Minnesota and Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. She said MOOCS let 100,000 students take free online courses.

“This is the wave of the future. We do proctoring of tests,” she said.
Conley also said technology currently available at county libraries is among the reasons why library usage is rising.

“We know we’ve got a growing population but an aging population,” she said. “We know the population is diversifying. The impact of technology is a bit of a wild card.”
Kriesel, however, believes technology offers county libraries opportunities to provide fast and efficient services at lower costs.

“I’d like to see us develop a technology improvement plan. I want county libraries to be the of Washington County.”