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Talk Takes on Library's Future & Needs

"This is meant to be a conversation among us all," said Westport Library Board President Martha Aasen, opening the April 14 meeting seeking residents' input on the library, "We are asking people to help us plan our future," she added, "meaning the library's services, programs and operations." Consultants Leslie and Alan Burger of Library Development Solutions in Princeton, New Jersey, ran the meeting. On the library's behalf, they have already held 20 focus groups and talked to close to 1,000 people. Additionally, four hundred people have so far responded to the library's online survey.

John Blossom commented, "I love our library. It provides the soul of downtown." He said its wireless internet access and reference department have "helped me many times." He also wondered if the library should have a role archiving website content, the "electronic version of storing old periodicals."

Richard Jaffee said he wished for a catalogue that offered a more modernized search process. "I only read books on CDs," he said, explaining that he listens to "classics that I missed in childhood" during his morning commute to work. More search options, he said, would allow him more easily to pinpoint the CDs he wants. Alan Burger responded that the library is looking at a new system as the current one is becoming outmoded.

Other attendees, like Steven Weiskopf, lavished praise on the library and its many offerings. "People here are very knowledgeable," he said, adding that the reference librarians search out sources for him on his interests. Elizabeth Lewin called the library's kids' games collection "terrific" and suggested it be expanded.

Comments returned frequently to how, going forward, the library will embrace technology. Leslie Burger said a North Carolina library had added a media center where kids create podcasts and build websites and suggested this might bring more kids to the library. Consultant Alan Burger added that in meeting with local middle and high school students, they frequently requested a larger cafe.

At the meeting's end, Leslie Burger asked, "What kind of library do we need?" Many of the answers focussed on lack of adequate space to meet the community's demand.  Julie Belaga said, "The problem is, we don't have room for everybody" and Alan Burger reported that in interviews with residents,  "Young moms have said they've been shut out of certain children's programs" because of a lack of space. To participate in the library's survey, visit its website .

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