Rockford’s Public Library is thinking of its patrons

Can you imagine the world today if everybody shunned technological advances as some of the Rockford library patrons are suggesting? What would have happened if Henry Ford had stopped the design of his automobile, faced with today’s objections to his invention because of its effects on the horse and buggy companies, the blacksmiths, or those who simply couldn’t afford to buy it?

How many millions of people would be without jobs in America without the automobile, Bill Gates’ software, Michael Dell’s computers or Steve Jobs’ devices and networks working together increasing our ability to do things quicker and more efficiently?

People can not continually adjust their lives or make decisions solely based on the lowest common denominator. Some people will not be able to use it, some people lack the technical knowledge and some don’t have the resources to take advantage of the technology but that doesn’t mean you stop progress until everyone catches up – not in a global economy – not for long.

The library is correct in its decision to embrace every facet of the technology that is now available and those enhancements that will be developed in the future, lest they be left behind in the inevitable shift from the bookshelves.

The movies, DVDs and music that are checked out each day at the library have advanced from the 8mm or super 8mm movie reels and the music is no longer on 78 or 45 rpm records. The library must remain relevant for those patrons that can’t afford the new technology and provide them with the opportunity to increase their skills in its use.

Today, patrons check out thousands of books without ever coming to the library. Online courses are increasing in the community and four-year colleges. Apple is starting to sell iPads that could replace a satchel of textbooks. Of course, those displaced by the new technology seldom have the acquired skills to find a job with the new technology without training to improve their skills.

Members of “Save our Library” and the Rockford branch of the NAACP need to look for ways to expand the horizons of individuals in their groups to obtain eReaders and increase access of their members to wireless internet, not hinder everyone else who have already taken the necessary steps to achieve success in a future filled with technology.

Do the members of these respective groups still view only three channels on their tube television sets, or listen to Arthur Godfrey on their radios, or little Orphan Annie, or music on their phonographs? Of course not – they have flat screen TVs, with surround sound, iPods for music, with the internet and hundreds of apps on their iPhones. Public services should also be required to keep current with technology.

Well, the future takes a little more effort than just learning how to read and many need to be trained in order to make the transition. It’s time to get started. They have a long way to go and a short time to get there. It’s time for groups to help those who haven’t yet started the journey into the future, not hamper those who are already on their way.

To the library board of trustees, there doesn’t always have to be balance. The future shift to digital is significant and is here right now. The library needs to be a part of the consortium of Illinois libraries and not a stand alone, unique system that is not compatible with larger systems because it’s cheaper.

It’s not cheaper in the long term and Rockford will once again be left behind because of antiquated systems based on doing things the way it’s always been done, using public employee unions who will undoubtedly demonstrate against this latest concept.

Let’s begin the transfer to the digital library world together for once and help those who need our help, whether they are patrons who don’t comprehend electronic readers or employees who need retraining as their antiquated jobs become obsolete.

The future is now! The library is doing what is necessary in order to remain relevant and to best serve their patrons. Those groups wishing to live in the past to keep their horse and buggy jobs, stop forcing the rest of us to live according to the lowest common denominator in Rockford and paying for the inefficient privilege to do so!



  1. JRM_CommonSense

    I agree with you completely on this Ted. I remember doing the research for my thesis and dissertation back in the late 60’s using the card catalogs and carrying armloads of books from the stacks to the work tables. Now I can sit in my recliner and find stuff in seconds that took me hours and days to find then. I am also a real fan of the NookColor I got for my 65th birthday. No more hauling 15 pounds of books and magazines on all of our trips and cruises. In fact, magazines are a joy to read on the Nook and they don’t clutter up the coffee tables. How does one NOT enjoy and embrace the progress and simplicity of the future already happening in the present?

    • Ted Biondo

      Thanks JRM_CommonSense – just go to a courtroom and look at the paper, the folders the attorneys carry around in their roll around baskets for their cases. It’s ridiculous. Current technology could remove all that waste and inefficiency, but where would those who make the paper type out the laws, etc. The blacksmiths, the horse and buggy advocates be? What if all of a sudden the legislature would change laws to make courts run more efficiently. Jobs might be lost but new jobs, with higher skills, and higher pay would be created. We can’t stay at the current level forever. People must improve their skills their entire life and technology is the way to get ahead.

  2. Paul Gutowski

    So the idea of allowing kids, the working poor, the elderly or those without internet access to go to a library, browse around for what’s available and then check out a book they like or need to school is now “inefficient.”

    “Members of “Save our Library” and the Rockford branch of the NAACP need to look for ways to expand the horizons of individuals in their groups to obtain eReaders and increase access of their members to wireless internet, not hinder everyone else who have already taken the necessary steps to achieve success in a future filled with technology.”

    Perhaps we can let them eat cake as well.

    So, the idea is to encourage kids to read and learn, and yet do it “efficiently” and to do it in a way that causes the least inconvenience to technologically advanced members of our society like yourself. Got it. And for adults of a certain age or mindset that enjoy the tactile experience of looking at and reading a book, they should understand the needless annoyance they are putting you through, and stop immediately. OK.

    Oh, for JRM, “How does one NOT enjoy and embrace the progress and simplicity of the future already happening in the present?”

    Well, if someone has no job and no good prospects for getting one, that would interfere with their ability to enjoy and embrace the “progress and simplicity of the future”. If someone has only enough to pay for either a bill or food, that could interfere, too. That wasn’t part of your disseration, I assume.

    • Ted Biondo

      Welcome to the horse and buggy whip world, Paul. Let’s not make any progress at all, wait for the world to catch up and then wonder what happened to all the jobs in this country, not just the low skilled ones leaving the country. I’m glad everyone doesn’t have your budding curiosity about the future with technology. We should not live our lives based on the lowest common denominator – which this country is beginning to do!

  3. Steve Noll

    Children don’t carry a Nook and they certainly don’t browse the internet for titles of their favorite Children’s books. The Library serves a lot of people for a lot of different reasons.

  4. Pro-Library/Pro-Progress

    I also agree with you, Ted! I think what people need to think about, is that public libraries need to be for EVERYONE. Libraries, including Rockford’s library, are not going to get rid of all of the print books anytime soon. I have a Kindle, and I enjoy that method of reading, as well as the traditional print format. There are a lot of people who love print books, including me, and I will continue to read them. But there is no doubt that our children and our grandchildren won’t read in all of the same ways that we did as children. We need to support them, as well as the citizens who still prefer print.

    • Ted Biondo

      Welcome to the blog Pro-Library/Pro-Progress – it’s refreshing that some can see the advantages of new ways of doing things. You are correct – the books are not going to go away but the majority of the new money availble to the library board should go toward the future or libraries will become the past!

  5. “How many millions of people would be without jobs in America without the automobile, Bill Gates’ software, Michael Dell’s computers or Steve Jobs’ devices and networks working together increasing our ability to do things quicker and more efficiently?”

    The same could be said about printers and book publishers. Think about it.

    • Ted Biondo

      Lulu, new jobs with higher skills will be created – we can’t just live in the past. Tell me how many modern technology devices you have in your home. Most of the horse and buggy jobs went overseas because of the costs to produce them here. Our workers need to improve their skills. Employee’s skills take a lifetime of learning. If we remain stagnant, the world will pass us by – like it’s beginning to do!

  6. There are still companies who make buggy whips, harnesses, and horse-drawn carriages, but they are no longer main-stream products. You have to adapt to survive in the technological world.

  7. JRM_CommonSense

    If I remember reading the articles over the last few days on this issue, I recall that the plan includes the purchase of Kindle reading devices that would be lent out to library members when they decide to make use of the e-book/e-reader technology. No one is saying that the library has to get rid of their collections. What individuals do when they start to use the e-book world is get their new books on that media. We save our past read books in their printed format on the book shelves that they have been stored on for years. The beauty is that they don’t have to buy any more book shelves. They now have “invisible” book shelves. (Thanks to the TV commerecial on WiFi for that one.) You can operate in the world of invisible book shelves, invisible cords, and invisible bookbags, not to mention invisible books.

  8. The SOL/NAACP argument rings hollow to me and smacks of union undertones. Our library has always been a place where those unable to afford technology have been provided access to technology. The SOL group seems to be missing that the Library plans to actually lend Kindle devices to its patrons. Without the library, these patrons would have NO access to this technology! The SOL group should be championing this change by demanding a MORE AGGRESSIVE transition to digital collections and a larger number of e-readers for loan. Unless this really is about job preservation rather than access to information.

    Consider our Hispanic and other immigrant populations as well. Can a print collection possibly offer access to all the same materials in multiple languages? No. Electronic delivery will offer non-English speaking patrons the opportunity to access an ever larger variety of materials. That is why Hispanic adoption of e-readers and tablets is SIGNIFICANTLY outpacing that of other groups. According to a Pew Research study 30% of all Hispanic adults owned an e-reader or tablet in May of 2011. That was up from 12% just 6 months before! Ownership rates among African Americans and Whites approximately doubled as well to 16% and 19% respectively. Prices are falling and more titles are becoming available, so expect the trend to continue.

    Libraries are battling to stay relevant to their supporters (taxpayers). If they do not progress with the times and technology they become irrelevant. Once they become irrelevant to more than 50% of the voting public, they will go away altogether. Libraries must understand that their competition is private industry and the alternatives and flexibility it provides to consumers who also happen to be taxpayers. Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes all are distributing materials, and B&N offers physical locations with story times and other programming typically done by libraries and generally in more up-to-date facilities with more amenities. RPL has been working to compete. The East Branch offers a nicer environment, coffee shop, and plenty of meeting space. Going digital is another step forward for the library and our community.

    If they don’t move forward with the times, libraries will be SOL!

  9. Robert Swanson Sr.

    No surprise that I agree with you Ted. Luddites that refuse to embrace the future will simply be left behind. Lucky for them, no one is talking about a 100% shift from print to digital. Since digital eBooks cost much less then print books, you get more bang for your dwindling budget buck. We’ll still have print media, for quite a long time. However, over time we will phase it out as e readers become more and more common. Within 10 or maybe 20 years, we will most likely have a digital version of the public library, and the physical locations will be replaced by a kiosk-type device. Many people will cry that this is a loss to the community. I will miss the buildings, I have a lot of pleasant memories there. But pleasant memories don’t override budget necessities.

    Bottom line is switching to eBooks will eventually allow the library to offer more books, on more subjects, at a lower cost to the community.

  10. Barb Dent

    I applaud the library for expanding the digital selection and agree with Ted’s analysis! Additionally, digital copies do not take up space on the shelf and according to the article in the paper, digital books, DVDs and CDs are checked out more than printed materials. Plus the library is not eliminating printed materials for those who want or need them. The purpose of the library is to serve ALL of us.

  11. Jeff Stewart

    1) last time I checked DVD and CD platforms are ‘digital’ and not paper.
    2) neither are useful without an ‘expensive’ reader/platform
    3) a significant % of loans currently are DVD and CD’s
    4) a Kindle now costs $80
    5) an average high school textbook hard bound textbook costs $80
    6) iBook 2 digital textbooks cost $14.95
    7) average trade hardback retails for $27.95
    8) average Kindle trade eBook is $14.95

    Do the math – don’t know how?

  12. Life is about choices. Buy a Kindle for $80 or Lottery tickets $20 a week for one month. Or maybe give up smoking or any number of other UNNECESSARY habits. I know this doesn’t apply to every situation (Carol), but new technology is within reach for a lot of folks, they just have to rank priorities.

  13. “People can not continually adjust their lives or make decisions solely based on the lowest common denominator.” Ted I cannot believe you said this!!!! Who is the lowest common denominator according to you?

    You are making this a modern technology vs. traditional argument. However, I see it as asking questions about the contract. Remember the devil is in the details and I think there are not many details. There are more questions. Until the taxpayers’ questions are answered regarding this contract, you will continue to have distrust. When you have distrust barriers on both sides go up. And your name calling blog will not help.

    • Ted Biondo

      pundit, sorry you feel that way, but I’m getting darn tired of every decision being made based on the lowest common denominators in our society. It’s all around us every day. In this case, I’m looking at those who can’t use an electronic device, can’t afford a device, cant read in the first place. It had nothing to do with any contract. Books will always be there, but we all can’t stand still based on those who can’t or will not move forward. The new money should be proportionately spent more on the modern technology, not old technology. Money is the issue also.

  14. “Children don’t carry a Nook and they certainly don’t browse the internet for titles of their favorite Children’s books. ” Right on!

    The library is about making books more accessible, not less.

  15. The Sunday, Jan 22 issue of RRStar reported that the library’s annual budget of $8.1 million is for serving the city’s roughly 150,00 people, 15,000 of whom are cardholders. That works out to $540 per cardholder per year or $54 per citizen (not household) per year. I love that Rockford has a public library but I’m having trouble accepting that my taxes are being spent well enough.

  16. lawrence l sparks

    tech.is wonderfull thing.so what.i like going to the libaray to look for books on a large number of subjects.i like looking at the books around the book i’am looking for.sometimes i find gems i had not looked for.ipads are the future for now.but something else will also take its place.you are also obsolete,we can turn you over to a computer program.but then you would not be able to say i made that decision because i could.decisions are easy to make when you don’t care what anyone has to say,if you realy do not care what they think or say!you say you want to keep up with the future.the future is heer!i don’t need the libary!buti i realy do like it.and despite what you think !it is needed!!i just don’t think we have the leadership needed to take us foreward.

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