EDITORIAL: Library planning

By NEMS Daily Journal

The growth in the Lee County Library’s daily, weekly, monthly and yearly patron census defies assertions that the age of technology and computers would make libraries obsolete.
Instead, Lee County and many other libraries have maintained their traditional print role while becoming community dispensers of the Internet with access to free personal computers for research, communication and personal enrichment. At last count, the Lee County Library was attracting 6,800 people per month, just to use its public access computer bank. All together, about 800 people per day use the library, including thousands of traditional bound volumes on its shelves.
Library trustees and its support network, Friends of the Library, also await the results of an expert’s study with recommendations about how the library can fully meet needs, even if it means moving to a new location.
The boxy modern design has occupied the southwest corner of Jefferson and Madison streets for about 40 years, when the structure replaced an earlier space, becoming the first Tupelo building ever designed as a library to actually serve as one.
Everything so far considered to improve space issues at the library points to the need for new quarters.
The 45 parking spaces at the library long have overflowed into nearby parking at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, along curbs on Jefferson and Madison Streets, and often in concentrations posing a traffic safety hazard.
The final expert’s report on space and design is due by the end of June, and that will be followed by a public forum at which all library patrons can express their opinions about what should be done to meet the library’s future needs.
We hope the Tupelo City Council, the Lee County Board of Supervisors and the legislative delegation can be persuaded to attend because inevitably those three governing bodies will be looked to for funding.
Nothing other than a windfall will fund a library expansion right away, but every project has a starting point and the more persistent the support the quicker action will come.
Seattle’s new library, opened earlier in the decade, remains the cutting edge of information advances.
Like Tupelo and other libraries, part of Seattle’s drive for a new space rose from demand – steadily increasing use of public computers, automated checkout and digitized books, which increasing numbers of readers choose.
Even so, a future Lee County Library probably will be required by demand to offer full service for both printed and digitized books.
While technology challenges tradition, it also suggests a new golden age for libraries.