Fall 2006

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President's Memo

By Norman J. Jacknis, NYSALB President

Fall 2006 issue of Trustee

The Next Generation
Around New York and much of the country, there has been renewed attention paid to library services for teens.  Librarians are coming up with some interesting ways of adapting to how teens now use reading and other materials.  They are also finding ways to entice those teens into libraries, a place that many teens had neglected in recent years.
Librarians have extended their offerings to include graphic novels and other forms of literature that are relatively new to the stacks.  Libraries are beginning to set up and use various forms of Internet-based social networking to communicate with and enable communications among teens, including blogs, wikis, podcasts and even services like MySpace. 
(Of course, in yet another attempt to hold back the tide, our national lawmakers have placed these new kinds of services in their cross-hairs.  No matter what the final outcome of such attempts and their impact on libraries, they will not reduce the importance of these services to teens.)

After an autumn presentation to the board of my own library system about its plans for teens, I realized that we were talking about much more than the services we provide to teens today in order to get them back into our libraries.
Sharing and social networking on the Internet is a phenomenon with tremendous implications for the book world as “Scan This Book!”, the cover article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on May 14, 2006, made clear.  The author, Kevin Kelly, started the article by referring to an old dream: “to have in one place all knowledge, past and present. All books, all documents, all conceptual works, in all languages … For 2,000 years, the universal library, together with other perennial longings like invisibility cloaks, antigravity shoes and paperless offices, has been a mythical dream that kept receding further into the infinite future.  Until now.”

As you might expect, he then described Google’s library project.  By now, this is not likely to be news to most trustees.  But he went on to devote a significant portion of his article to “what happens when books connect.”  He elaborates on the combination of a searchable database of the world’s written words and the sharing of the thoughts of readers on those words – until you end up with something that is such an extension of books as we have known them that perhaps they become a new phenomenon. 

Reading this, I was reminded of the quaint way that automobiles were ushered into the world as horseless carriages.  That phrase tied them to something familiar, but hid the qualitative difference that cars would make on the lives of everyone.

The phenomenon Kelly portrayed, though, is one with which teens are very comfortable.  This is the world they live in as they spend hours before the computer screen.

Now consider how much libraries have changed over the last decade or two in response to the demands of today’s adults.  Here’s a question that puts this in focus: would library trustees twenty years ago have expected the proportion of their library space devoted to books to diminish as much as it has?  It is fair to say that many libraries were unprepared for such changes and had to play “catch-up,” often at great expense.

This is not to say that books have disappeared or that libraries have forgotten about printed reading material.  It is just that today’s adults also want other media and computers connected to the Internet.  And this results in a different mix of services and different use of space.

Similarly, the teen library services that we are seeing blossom around the state are an early warning system of where we will need to go with adult library services in the future — because teens grow up and become, after all, the next generation of adult library patrons.

Please pass along your library’s teen experiences to your fellow trustees around the state, by sending an email to:, NYSALB’s email discussion group.  You can also send us private email at 

Thank you.

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