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5 Questions for Adrian Mixson

POSTED: March 4, 2012 11:30 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

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Adrian Mixson was born in another Gainesville, the one in Florida, but he's been here for nearly 15 years and has built a strong library system. But budget cuts and the age of the Internet have changed the library system. Today, The Times asks Mixson five questions about libraries.

 

1. How has the way people use the library changed over the years?

People still use libraries for the same reasons as in the past. They just expect more services. Locally, last year we had almost 550,000 visits so people are still coming. Those most able to afford their informational and recreational needs have never come to the library and that has not changed; but they also do not use parks or even have kids in public schools.

There are many readers who have always purchased some of their books for a sundry of reasons including the desire to keep up with the Reading Joneses, but they use libraries because they consume books and cannot afford most titles any other way. There is a lot of information available for free off the Internet so we see fewer looking for ready-reference type information.

Unfortunately, as I tell people, I can hang an electronic shingle on the Web and ply advice. Many spots on the Web do not come with verifiable credentials.

The e-book has not made 5 percent popular market penetration and many publishers are still backing off selling to libraries. There are a lot of titles not even available electronically including such classics as "To Kill a Mockingbird," "A Wrinkle in Time" and "Little House on the Prairie."

 

2. How has technology changed how you do your job?

When I started this profession, music was still on LPs, most libraries purchased no paperbacks, the IBM typewriter was cutting edge, the card catalog was on index cards and inventory circulated on a modified punch card system tracked by hand. We used 16 mm, 32 mm and 9 mm film. Everyone had a bookmobile. Otherwise, "outreach" was when the library director spoke at a civic group.

I have gone from paper to electronic catalogs, seen information delivered electronically and inventory tracked electronically, and watched computer services for job seekers become more important than typewriters and copiers back in the day. Music and movies are digital and some are now being streamed. You do not need to physically use your library but can access it from the Web.

I have been through all the numerous media transitions and every step of the way, I heard libraries are dead. Books are gone. People no longer need the services. Technology has made the job more efficient, challenging and exciting.

I started using digital information in the late '80s, offered the public Web services in 1992, and I hope one day to offer children's programming using the hologram.

The e-book will replace some of the content on library shelves but how much remains to be seen. The struggle has always been in how to offer services to the public in a cost-efficient manner.

 

3. What's your favorite book and why?

I guess I still enjoy Alexandre Dumas' "The Three Musketeers." I read it when I was a kid a dozen times and still see every new version released in the theater. A version was even released this past fall. It is a classic story with sword fighting in a far-off land, pitting good against evil. I wanted to be D'Artagnan and serve the kingdom. Maybe that is why I ended up a librarian. Anyone game to cross rapiers?

 

4. What's your advice to parents to get their children interested in reading?

Children need to see their parents read. They need to take them where books can be found, be it libraries or bookstores. They need to take them to reading events, listen to authors and talk about books and magazines and newspapers in their homes. In Hall County, over 29 percent of the adults 24 years of age or older still do not have a high school diploma or GED, but they can still serve as examples for their kids, nieces and nephews.

Successful people learned to read early and most are from households where reading was respected. They learned by example. They saw their parents consider reading important. I encourage adults to purchase books as gifts and bring their kids to story hours at the library when they first start toddling about the house. You can get your 6-month-old a library card. Will they use it? Of course not. They are too young; but it does say a lot about what a parent holds important.

 

5. What do you think the library of the future will look like?

Libraries will always be around in one form or another. They may no longer be the behemoths seen in larger cities but they will be commons for meetings and places for learning, sharing ideas and reading.

It remains to be seen how much of the printed word completely moves to the digital. From selection to ease or comfort of use, the book is still a great medium. And the private sector will continue to move from giving its goodies away to charging for information.

Just last month I had a blower go out on my furnace at home and to find the schematics — once free over the Internet — every site I went to wanted to charge.

Libraries have always been a source for such information.

I have obtained schematics for everything from toasters to filters used by cable companies.

Libraries will be around. They just will be leaner and more efficient, but still doing what they have always done: promoting reading and helping people understand their world. Do you know how many children started their road to reading in a children's room at their public library? Last year in Hall County we had almost 27,000 attend children's programs.

 



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