Simplified: Siouxland Libraries are planning for a future where libraries are used less for checking out physical copies of books and more as community gathering spaces. Here's a look at what changes could be coming in the next several years.
Why it matters
- Siouxland Libraries Director Jodi Fick said she sees the future of libraries as focusing less on consumption of materials – i.e. checking out physical copies of books – and more about creating through things like makerspaces, writing groups, podcasting studios and more.
- That's not to say folks aren't checking out books anymore. Siouxland Libraries has a higher circulation per capita than both the state and nation, but, in the last five years, the library is seeing fewer overall visits.
- Those that do visit are coming less for the books more for the structured programming and for the study or meeting rooms.
- The system is looking to evolve in a couple of key ways: by establishing libraries as community gathering spaces, and by upping the focus on supporting young readers.
"A library is not about the books," Fick said. "It's about the sharing of information. It's about the passing on of knowledge. It is a community saying, 'We care enough about our community that we are going to make sure there are resources here for my family and for my neighbor's family."
Tell me more about some of the future plans
One of the biggest points of focus right away – as stated in a strategic five-year plan presented to City Council earlier this month – is simply raising awareness about what already exists.
- Libraries already have study rooms and meeting rooms.
- They also have lots of programs and events to help encourage early literacy.
Future plans include adding makerspaces where people can learn by doing, as well as soundproof rooms for creators like podcasters.
The system is also looking into other creative ways to keep up with growth in the city.
- That might look like adding library "vending machines" to certain areas where people can use their library card to "shop" a small, curated collection.
- It might also look like pickup lockers where people can request books, and the library will deliver them to the lockers for a more convenient pickup.
"Together we can improve our community by having the resources that we all need in a space that's accessible to all of us," she said.
In rural branches, the library is also looking at expanded access where people can get into the library outside of regular hours to pick up books.
- That's already an option in Hartford and Crooks, Fick said.
What's new in early literacy programming?
Siouxland Libraries this week is launching a six-week series called "Ready, Set, Kindergarten."
- It'll focus on getting kids ready for school by practicing different skills each week and giving parents what they need to help their kids keep practicing at home. More details on that program here.
What happens next?
As Sioux Falls grows, the library system is also closely watching where that growth is happening and planning for future branches.
- Fick said her goal as a system is to have a library within a six-minute drive from everywhere in town.
- Right now, that's getting harder to do in the fast-growing southeast and northwest areas of Sioux Falls.
As the libraries look at adding branches, they're taking into account that people increasingly want more private spaces – like meeting rooms, study rooms, etc.
- And they also want more programming – both for kids and adults.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated existing resources. Soundproof rooms are part of the future plan, and are not yet available.