Left to right: Zocalo Public Square Publisher Gregory Rodriguez, Susan Hildreth, Miguel Figueroa, Susan Parker. Photo courtesy Zocalo Public Square.
Left to right: Zocalo Public Square Publisher Gregory Rodriguez, Susan Hildreth, Miguel Figueroa, Susan Parker. Photo courtesy Zocalo Public Square.

At the September 30 Zócalo / West Hollywood Reads event “Do Libraries Have a Future?”, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the opening of the West Hollywood Library, Zócalo publisher Gregory Rodriguez challenged three librarians to talk about the future of libraries.

Susan Hildreth, former director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Professor of Practice at University of Washington Information School, Miguel Figueroa, Director of the Center for the Future of Libraries at the American Library Association, and Susan Parker, UCLA Deputy Librarian, discussed how libraries are casting their mission and purpose in the digital age.

Friends President Elise Kalfayan and Glendale Library Foundation President Joylene Wagner attended the discussion, which (like all Zocalo Public Square events) is available on video. Read about the event, and watch the full discussion here.

Takeaway: libraries will remain vital institutions which provide relevant, and accurate, information freely to all. The public library core values of intellectual freedom, neutrality, and universal access have not been supplanted by the information age. In fact, speakers argued that libraries are more important than ever, providing “safe spaces” for inquiry, gathering diverse viewpoints together in contrast to the digital tendency to separate audiences into extremes, and equalizing access to information for populations that don’t have internet access or desktop / laptop computers.

One big concern the panelists had (and Friends take note) is that society doesn’t often understand how libraries are funded, and may take them for granted. More and more libraries are receiving funds from Friends groups and Library foundations in addition to local government funding. Communities have to take an active role in assuring that libraries and library services have adequate funding to fulfill their vital mission.

YOU can take an active role in assuring the future of our Library system – join the Friends, renew your membership each year, and invite your friends and neighbors to join as well!

Zocalo Event Explores the Future of Libraries: Bright!