Upgrading the library’s tools

Published 9:55 pm Thursday, April 7, 2016

Libraries today just aren’t what they used to be.

With the proliferation of laptops, tablets, smartphones and e-readers, the way people consume books these days has changed, the way they use the library has changed and Suffolk’s library system is changing with the times.

On Saturday, the city will retire its venerable Bookmobile, closing the final chapter in the mobile library’s long life of supporting the joy of reading at remote locations throughout this sprawling community.

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In 36 years of service, the Bookmobile has logged 136,432 miles. Even accounting for the distance between, say, Whaleyville and Eclipse, that total represents quite a few book-laden trips to the far reaches of this city.

It would probably be impossible to account for the thousands of books that made it into eager readers’ hands during those years, but it’s likely that many young people discovered “Huckleberry Finn,” that many of their parents discovered the joy of quiet time when the kids were curled up with a good story and that other adults discovered their latent interests in history, science, architecture and any number of other subjects because of their visits to the Bookmobile.

Alas, all things change, but the move from the Bookmobile to the new Library2Go vehicle is a change worth celebrating.

This high-tech, mobile library will be a resource for current and future generations, much the way the Bookmobile has been a resource for past generations. Library2Go will carry some books, but it will also sport flat-screen televisions, wireless computers, charging stations for visitors’ electronic devices, a 3-D printer and other technology designed to help patrons connect to the resources they need to do schoolwork, search for jobs and broaden their horizons.

The mission of libraries has not changed. Only the technology they use to fulfill their mission has changed. Suffolk Public Library’s decision to upgrade the tools it uses to help meet its patrons’ needs is a good sign that the library will continue to be relevant in the lives of the people of Suffolk for years to come.