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Are Libraries Relevant In The Internet Age?


Julie Gammack


Surprisingly, there are only three other libraries in the world with a public/private relationship similar to the one enjoyed by the Mount Vernon community and Cole, according to Robert McDermand ’63, who works for the San Jose State University Library. He says there is one in Florida, one in Geneva, Switzerland, and the latest is one he has been intimately involved with through his role as head of outreach for San Jose State University’s new Library facility.

“I’m looking out my window at eight stories of steel,” said McDermand. “This is a $173 million project. It will be the largest library west of the Mississippi.”

McDermand has served on a committee that is charged with working through myriad issues associated with blending the public library with the university’s system. It has not been without controversy. There were concerns by some academics that the merger would dilute the
mission of the university library, and those with a tradition of serving the public worried that reference librarians “wouldn’t want to talk to people.”

Those concerns have been addressed; however, many other jurisdiction questions remain to be worked through before the 2003 completion date. Blending staffs, determining where the responsibility for security should fall, are examples.

Why is this dual-purpose library concept such a rarity?

“That’s a good question. It makes so much sense,” says McDermand. “Had it not been for this merger, we would not have had a new library in 20 years.”

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