MOUSS Services to Adults Committee

Annual Conference Chicago 2000 Program
"A Place for Place: The Virtual Library in a Non-Virtual World"
Part I

"What is the relevance of libraries in an age of super-bookstores and on-line purveyors? What does a virtual library do that a physical library can not?" Debate has focused on why we need libraries when we have the Internet. We don't need a central library but more and better branches. How does the virtual library fit in? Traditional libraries insist we have a place in our communities and on our college and university campuses. How does a community vie for increased public use of libraries while competing with super-bookstores like Border's and Barnes & Noble? This question was one of ten posed to each of three guest speakers in this standing-room only program presented by the Services To Adults Committee (SAC), RUSA and Library Solutions Press in Chicago on July 9, 2000 at ALA Annual.

Phil Myrick, representing the Program for Public Spaces (PPS), a non-profit group, provided an impressive and thought provoking slide presentation which demonstrated how the location of our libraries as physical spaces, redefine libraries as community centers. The PPS mission continues to be one of creating and sustaining public spaces, which build communities. Since its founding in 1975, PPS has worked in over 1,000 communities to help grow their public spaces into vital community centers. Myrick offered a positive vision on how libraries can collaborate with their community leaders and citizens in joint efforts, including libraries as revitalized community centers. The Program for Public Spaces may be reached through their website

Deborah Jacobs, Library Director, Seattle Public Library, gave a concrete example of the collaborative effort made in the construction of new libraries in her community in 1999. This partnership in determining the future of Seattle's library's, was between various City of Seattle departments. Included were the Seattle Arts Commission and Seattle Design Commission and the Library. Library staff and trustees held meetings with community representatives to hear what they wanted in their neighborhood libraries. Thirty-seven different Library staff work groups were created for this effort. In 1999 Architect Rem Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) ( was selected as the architect for the new Central Library. The grand opening of the NewHolly Library in November 1999 provided them with an exciting look at what was yet to come, as they continued building new libraries as part of Seattle's program Libraries for All.

Monica Wetz-Wiseman, Virtual Library Project Manager, University of South Florida (USF) Libraries, presented an impressive PowerPoint presentation showing the logistics of operating and managing a Virtual Library. She emphasized that a virtual library challenges the traditional library assumptions of quiet, space, preservation and security. Improved convenience for users turns the library's focus from the traditional administrative-centered to user-centered with resultant cost savings. One of the benefits is partnerships with other libraries is converging roles and services. In one of USF's library surveys, of those accessing the Internet at home 77.9% use it for email. Of this group 93.6% email family and friends. A majority of home users, 59.8% use the Internet when searching for information.* Those affected by USF closing their library doors would be undergraduate students, community users and area school students in the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota Areas of Florida. See this virtual library at their web site

Part I for the SAC was "A Place for Place: The Virtual Library in a Virtual World." Look for Part II of this series titled, "Making Our Place Their Place: Marketing, Advertising & Programming," to be presented at ALA Annual Conference 2002, Atlanta. Attendees at the Chicago 2000 program requested a follow-up to our Chicago 2000 program and we are working to honor this request. The plan is to invite professionals from other disciplines giving librarian's pointers and tools which will help us market, advertise and create programs which revitalize libraries within our communities.

*Source: National Telecommunications and Information Administration--

Ten Questions