As the Rochester Public Library enters its next 100 years, the role of the public library is rapidly changing. There are many questions being asked and predictions being made about the future of libraries in the digital age. Will brick and mortar libraries be necessary in a time when content is available digitally from many sources? How quickly will digital content and e-reading devices replace printed materials? What will users want from the public library?
There are many articles and essays available that address these concerns, and RPL staff and trustees think and discuss these issues all the time. The library of 2011 is far different from the library of 1911. How will the library of 2111 differ from where we are today?
In 2011, the Rochester Public Library will take a big step towards that future state and will begin developing a fully digital library. A project proposal is being drafted that will guide the library through the development stages and into implementation. Throughout the next year, library staff will work closely with our users to determine the best way to deliver and sustain digital content. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome and can be sent to the Library Director, Patricia Uttaro, at email@example.com.
As the Rochester Public Library enters into the next 100 years, its mission to provide educational, recreational, aesthetic, and informational materials, services, and programs to help people follow their own lines of inquiry remains current, but the means of delivering those materials, services and programs is changing. As the internet has become an integral part of life for many in our community, demand for library materials, programs and services delivered digitally has increased steadily since 2000. The Rochester Public Library has taken the lead in Monroe County by providing e-content through its extensive, in-house digitizing program and through the development of an online collection of e-books and e-audiobooks, but must continue to grow this collection. RPL begins a second century of service to the Rochester community by developing a fully online library featuring digital content that includes e-books, e-audio, e-video, as well as subject specific databases, online training and lectures, and interactive content for users who wish to personalize their library experience and share it with others creating a collection
Current State of Digital Content
The Rochester Public Library has been a leader in the field of digitizing since the mid-1990s, when the Rochester Images database was developed through a collaborative project with the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Since 1998, more than 2 million photographs and pages have been scanned, edited and described by the RPL Digitizing Department. Much of that content is available on the Monroe County Library System website, www.libraryweb.org. However, it is neither easily searchable nor contained within a single database or library catalog.
In 2006, RPL led the way in the Monroe County Library System by purchasing e-audiobooks through Overdrive, Inc. That collection has grown to more than 2500 e-audio titles and more than 700 e-book titles, with a recorded circulation of over 50,000. Overdrive is used by approximately 7500 individuals in Rochester and Monroe County, and use and demand have more than doubled each year since the collection began.
The Central Library of Rochester is known for its subject experts, particularly in the fields of Business and Local History. These subject divisions and others provide access to a large number of expensive, specialized databases such as Reference USA, Capital Changes Reporter, Hoovers, Morningstar, Valueline, and Ancestry.com. Currently, users must be in the library division in order to use these and other databases. Access to our subject specialists has been limited to in-person, telephone, or email assistance.
Future State of Digital Content
The Digital Division of the Rochester Public Library will provide:
- A single, easy to use search engine.
- Expanded downloadable e-content.
- Research and professional level, quality databases.
- Online subject collections.
- Real-time, online reference assistance from professional librarian subject specialists.
- A collection of technology equipment available for public use.
A single, front-end search engine that will search and retrieve digitized materials from the e-collection will eliminate the need to browse several different databases and pathfinders. The e-collection will also include subject specific pathfinders that collect and interpret images around themes such as the Erie Canal, Public Safety, Maps, and more. This search engine will bring together for the first time single search access to
- The library’s Life Records database which consists of more than 1 million names listed in birth notices, obituaries, and marriage notices published in local newspapers beginning in 1960;
- The name indexes to Central Library resources currently available in PDF form on the Monroe County Library System website, which include Brick Church Index, Civil War Master List, Men’s Name Index to the RPL Clippings File, Names from City Directories 1879-1889, Roster of Soldiers in the War of the Rebellion, Rochester War Dead from the Revolutionary War to the Lebanon Conflict, Women’s Name Index to the RPL Clippings File, Rochester World War II and Korean Casualties, World War II Master File, Garland Cemetery Index, Spencerport High School Yearbook Index, Index to 150 Years in Ogden, 100 Years in Spencerport, Index to Caledonia: A History of the Town and Village, Index to Pioneer Reminiscences, Name Index to the Ogden 1892 NYS Census, Brockport Births 1925-1953, Brockport Deaths 1856-1923 and 1925-1953, Brockport Marriages 1856-1917 and 1925-1953, Persons Buried in Ogden, St. John the Evangelist Baptisms, and the 1917 Farm Director Index to Monroe County;
- Additional finding aids created by RPL Local History staff.
The Overdrive e-audio and e-book collections will be enlarged, and additional e-content such as video and other audio will be added. E-content will be added in all the subject areas currently provided in the Central Library. Original content, including rare oral history tapes from the late 1960s featuring Rochester’s Civil Rights leaders, will be converted to digital format and made available through the division. In addition, original content will be developed that provides training for users which is currently only offered in person at the Central Library.
Databases such as those described above will be made available to valid Rochester library card holders via the division, so business people, lawyers, researchers, genealogists, students, and others will be able to use the extensive resources of the Central Library from the comfort of their homes or offices. In addition to these databases, content such as online reference books will be available. This content will include materials in all subject areas currently provided in the Central Library. Examples of such materials include:
- Twayne’s Author series (Literature)
- Reference USA (Business)
- Artificial Intelligence (Science)
- Collaborating to Meet Literacy Standards (Education)
- Price It: Antiques & Collectibles database (Arts)
Online assistance from a librarian or subject expert will be made available via chat, text or Skype, so users can browse the e-collection and still have a librarian available to answer questions as needed.
The Rochester Public Library will also function as a source for people to try new technology before they buy, and intends to offer e-readers and other devices for borrowing in the next year.
In order for a Digital Library to be constructed, the need exists to upgrade and improve the access to technology in the Central Library data center. A proposal is being considered to increase the capacity of the data lines at Central to a gigbit ethernet, which would allow for speedy access and delivery of digital content via the Digital Library. Full capacity streaming video and audio would be possible, as well as access to a variety of business and historical databases, and much more.
The Library will also require stable staffing in the form of a manager who will be responsible for all content made available through the division and who will work closely with Central Library staff to select and create content. The Digital Services Manager will oversee all digital content activities, including development and implementation of mobile applications for the library catalog.