On Libraries at the Crossroads BY JOHN B. HORRIGAN

American libraries are buffeted by cross currents. Citizens believe that libraries are important community institutions and profess interest in libraries offering a range of new program possibilities. Yet, even as the public expresses interest in additional library services, there are signs that the share of Americans visiting libraries has edged downward over the past three years, although it is too soon to know whether or not this is a trend.

A new survey from Pew Research Center .... highlight[s] how this is a crossroads moment for libraries. The data paint a complex portrait of disruption and aspiration. There are relatively active constituents who hope libraries will maintain valuable legacy functions such as lending printed books. At the same time, there are those who support the idea that libraries should adapt to a world where more and more information lives in digital form, accessible anytime and anywhere.

The big questions: What should happen to the books? What should happen to the buildings? Growing Public Support for Libraries Moving Some Books and Stacks to Create Space for Community and Tech Spaces.

Two key questions highlight the challenge library leaders face. First, what should libraries do with their books? Some 30% of those ages 16 and over think libraries should “definitely” move some print books and stacks out of public locations to free up more space for such things as tech centers, reading rooms, meeting rooms and cultural events; 40% say libraries should “maybe” do that; and 25% say libraries should “definitely not” do that. Since 2012, there has been an uptick of 10 percentage points in those saying libraries should “definitely” move some books and stacks (20% v. 30%) and an 11-point downtick in those saying that should “definitely not” be done (36% v. 25%).... [Bold text for emphasis.]