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Changing role of public libraries

When architect Jeff Scherer designed the addition to the Detroit Lakes Public Library about 25 years ago, he planned for the ever-changing face of libraries.

Years later, that face of libraries continues to grow and change – and Scherer is keeping up with those strides.

“There’s a lot of really cool stuff going on in the library world,” he said.

Scherer will speak tomorrow (Thursday) at the DL Library as part of the kick-off to the library’s centennial celebration this year. The older Carnegie portion of the library turns 100 years old on Nov. 14.

And while that’s all well and good, Scherer said he isn’t in town simply for a walk down memory lane, but rather to talk about the future of libraries.

“I’m going to take the opportunity to talk about the arc of how libraries have evolved since the mid-80s and talk about the shifting role of the library in our community and how the planning of that library was based on a model that now is pretty much obsolete,” Scherer said.

Scherer is with the firm Meyer, Scherer &Rockcastle out of the Twin Cities.

So while Scherer will talk about the needs of the library 100 years ago and then again in the 1980s, he also plans to share images of libraries of the future as well. There is a different set of needs with each time period.

Scherer is chairing an architecture for public libraries committee for the Public Library Association and has been doing a lot of research on changing libraries, so he plans to use some of that information to enlighten Becker County residents.

He has also been appointed to the International Federation of the Library Associates Building Committee, with whom he’s been traveling the world, visiting other countries and their libraries.

“I’m going to share what I’ve learned is going on in other places, too,” he said.

He said he will touch on the difficulties the Detroit Lakes Library had 25 years ago with the addition, such as funding, “and the people who are really naive about the role of the library to the disadvantaged, trying to stop libraries from evolving,” which are still issues today, and not just in Detroit Lakes.

“I think we did a reasonable job of trying to anticipate what would happen over the next 20 to 25 years,” he said of Detroit Lakes.

“I think they got a lot of bang for their buck and it’s held up well.”

With that said, libraries are changing both inside and out. It’s no longer about the books on the shelves.

Scherer was a part of the Madison Central Library in Wisconsin that opened back up this past weekend after a major renovation. It was built in 1964, and was completely gutted and repurposed.

“In the same building, we reclaimed about 20,000 square feet because the library de-acquisitioned a bunch of books,” he said. “There’s more space for community use. We have content creation rooms for kids to do pod casts and video. They have 3-D printers. They’ve got offices for homeless advocates to work with homeless people who use the library. We’ve got a gross motor skills area for the kids.”

The Central Library in Tulsa, Okla., is also getting a makeover, and Scherer said it will have an entire floor dedicated to small business services.

“There’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on around the world.”

In Birmingham, England, a new library was just opened at the cost of $250 million. It’s been in the planning for 20 years, he said.

A library in Amsterdam opened a central library a few years ago that cost $350 million. It has seven floors, two restaurants, two bars, 500 computer stations and parking for 3,000 bicycles.

“And it’s packed every day.”

While Detroit Lakes may not be on that grand a scale, there are still future needs. He’ll talk about what they are.

Scherer will speak Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the library. This event is free and open to all. Refreshments will be served.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.