MARSHALL - About 10 librarians from around Minnesota gathered on Friday to meet for a brainstorming session to plot the future of libraries.
"We meet twice a year, it's the Minnesota Library Directors' Public Forum," said Holly Martin Huffman, director of the Marshall-Lyon County library. "We're going to talk about library things like what ID to ask for library cards, should we go to eBooks, etc. It's a chance to ask your peers how they do it."
Libraries it seems, are very individual in character, and have a lot of different ways of doing things and different functions. Local libraries often serve as community meeting spaces or even galleries for local artists.
"I find the most use out of these six hours than a lot of time at home," said James Lund, director of the Red Wing Public Library. "There's interactions, bouncing ideas off each other and good collaboration. We get to see different libraries, different ideas and different designs."
Whatever the future holds it seems likely libraries are going to look a lot different. Some people aren't even sure there will be any libraries in the future.
"We're going to have more and more digital media," said Vanessa Birdsey, Scott County Library director. "Some people think they are going to disappear, but I don't think so."
Birdsey pointed out libraries are important in smaller towns where they often serve a social function beyond lending books.
"We're finding our libraries are community spaces," Birdsey said. "We're developing libraries to look like this (Marshall) with places to sit and meeting rooms. Old ones were built just to come in and check out a book."
Justin Padgett is director of the library in Cannon Falls, population 4,000.
"Much of what we do, believe it or not, isn't circulating books," Padgett said. "It's more of a community institution than just a library. It's the place to go to in town."
And not just a physical place to go. Ken Behringer, director of the Dakota County Library, pointed out today's libraries have locations in physical space and cyberspace as well.
"Not only do you have people who think of the library as a physical location with books, but also people who think of it as a domain to go to at 2 o'clock in the morning in their robe and slippers on their computer," Behringer said.