Librarians talk technology at conference

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(Host) Vermont librarians held their annual conference in Burlington on Tuesday. The talk was about technology, the changing role of libraries and reaching an overlooked group of readers.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The amount of material found in even the smallest public library in Vermont has grown tremendously without a single new brick being laid to make room. Thanks to high speed Internet access and a full text database that includes back issues of periodicals, local users have access to a volume of information unthinkable twenty years ago.

(Sybil Brigham McShane) “I think it makes what we do so much more powerful. You can get just about anything in a small library now with a well trained librarian and the right access.”

(Zind) Sybil Brigham McShane is the state librarian. McShane says for most librarians who were drawn to the work by a love of books, the digital age has required a bit of adjustment. Staying up-to-date, no longer means offering the latest bestseller, but combating computer viruses.

McShane says libraries are also holding more public events, like demonstrations, workshops and author readings in hopes of getting more people to use their services.

Tuesday’s conference also saw the launch of a new effort to increase reading among high school students in hopes they’ll continue to read when they’ve graduated. A recent national study shows a big drop off in reading after high school.

The newly created Green Mountain Book Award is a list of selections that tend toward the contemporary and edgy in hopes of stimulating a renewed interest in reading. Marsha Middleton is librarian at North Country Union High School. She chaired the committee that developed the list.

(Middleton) “We wanted books that had literary merit, but also that students would like. I know one time in my school some people said why don’t you just make the kids read the books we had to read when we were in school, why are you trying to find books they like to read. We really wanted to find books they like to read.

The 15 books range from Marjane Satrapi’s illustrated novel, “Persepolis, The story of a Childhood” to M.T. Anderson’s futuristic satire “Feed”. Students will be encouraged to read three or more of the books and vote on their favorite. Jon Fishman, formerly of the band Phish, is lending his image to the campaign which will begin in the fall.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Burlington.

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