Lincoln City Libraries Director Pat Leach heard the question often enough that a campaign to reinforce the usefulness and viability of libraries in the digital age seemed like a good idea.
The question: Will there be libraries in the future?
Leach’s resounding answer: "Yes."
“There’s a whole lot going on at libraries,” she said Monday at the launch of the awareness campaign. “We see many different uses for libraries.”
The foundation hired Michelle Tilley of the communications and design firm Chocolate Cake and Brendan Evans of Research Associates to run a campaign through the end of the year.
The "Libraries Are More Than Books" campaign includes testimonials from community members like musician and teacher Gerardo Meza, pictured on a poster with his thoughts: “Libraries are living rooms of the universe.”
Posters will go into libraries and other Lincoln buildings, Leach said, and the testimonials are on Facebook and at ideaplacelnk.com.
Herb Schimek, library board member, said libraries existed before books, holding tablets and scrolls in ancient Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia.
“Libraries are the engines of civilization where knowledge is kept, with easy access for anyone,” he said.
They are also places for people to gather and share ideas, he said.
Many of the questions about the future of libraries arose after a Sinclair-Hille study recommended renovating Pershing Center into a new main library, Leach said.
The mayor rejected that as too expensive, but Leach said the process made it clear it was important to educate people.
As the public increases access to private sources of electronic books, libraries remain places people can get information, have access to computers, do research and exchange ideas, she said. And they offer a place for students to spend time and attend summer programs.
And, while studies find a growing number of people read books digitally, only 4 percent of Americans are e-book-only readers, Leach said.
No one knows how quickly – or thoroughly – libraries will become digital, she said, but for now the library often buys new books in both print and digital formats.
Lincoln's libraries include about 800,000 books, periodicals, DVDs and CDs. Its downloadable items have grown to 10,248 e-books and 5,752 audio books.
“There will be libraries after there are books, because libraries are more than books,” Schimek said. “They are places for ideas to live and grow.”