The Library of the Future: Annual Library Essay Contest

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Blog Entry from judge and local librarian Rita Meade and Original Press Release, April 11, 2001 from THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK OFFICE OF COUNCILMAN VINCENT GENTILE

Photos by "the office of Councilman Vincent Gentile".

Local Students Wrote About “Libraries of the Future”

Councilman Vincent Gentile hosted an awards ceremony for local public school student essayists who wrote about the future they envision for public libraries as part of Councilman Gentile’s annual libraries essay contest.

“I was astounded by the creativity of students. In their essays, I caught a glimpse of the brightness and potential of their futures,” Councilman Gentile said. “I believe that the future of libraries depends on how today’s students grow and develop – and if today’s winners are any indication, our libraries are going to thrive!

“Eighth grader Amy Ji put it best: ‘Like us, our libraries are growing each day, being stored with generations of knowledge…So when someone asks, ‘What will the libraries of the future be?’ I’ll say, ‘It depends on you,’” Councilman Gentile finished.

The contest coincides with National Library Week, during which community nationwide celebrate libraries as a fundamental and necessary part of local neighborhoods, as well as the role they serve as a community foundation for literacy, access to technology, culture and community organizing. 

Participating essayists competed within three different age ranges: high school students, intermediate school students and elementary school students. Winners from each age range are as follows:

High School Winners
1st Place: Brandon Cadmen, High School of Telecommunications, Arts &Technology *Read Brandon's essay (PDF)
2nd Place: Jacky Lin, Fort Hamilton High School
3rd Place: Kerry Kong, Fort Hamilton High School

Intermediate School Winners
1st Place: Maxwell Bashy, Eighth Grader at IS 187 (The Christa McAuliffe School) *Read Maxwell's essay (PDF)
2nd Place: Amy Ji, Eighth Grader at IS 187 (The Christa McAuliffe School)
3rd Place: Cindy Lee, Eighth Grader at IS 259 (William McKinley)

Elementary School Winners
1st Place: Edmond Wong, 5th Grader at PS 112 (Lefferts Park) *Read Edmond's essay (PDF)
2nd Place: Helena Kossowska, 4th Grader at PS 102 (Bayview)
3rd Place: Nikolas Jokinsky, 5th Grader at PS 170 (Lexington)

Twenty-five local public schools participated in the contest; a total of 400 essays were submitted to Councilman Gentile’s office for review. They were distributed to six judges to read and grade. Judges were: Ted General (Home Reporter columnist), Carlo Scissura (Chief of Staff to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz), Tatiana Nicoli (owner of Boulevard Books & Café), Rita Meade (Community Board 10 member and New Utrecht Library librarian), Judy Collins (Chair of Community Board 10’s Youth Services, Education and Libraries Committee) and Brian Kassenbrock.

Each first-place winner will receive a $30 gift certificate to Boulevard Books & Café (7518 13th Avenue); second- and third-place essayists will receive t-shirts and tote bags from the Brooklyn Public Library. All winning essayists will also receive medals and citations.

Contact: Dena Libner, Director of Communications, Office of Councilman Vincent Gentile, (646) 335-3692

Blog Entry from Rita Meade

Rita Meade is a Community Board 10 member and a Children's Librarian at the New Utrecht Library a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Recently, I was asked to be a judge for a children's essay contest sponsored by a local Councilman, who is a big champion for libraries. The topic of the essay contest was "The Library of the Future," and kids ranging from elementary school to high school were asked to describe how they envision libraries changing, evolving, and improving in the years to come.

This topic is particularly relevant these days, with ebook controversy and the talk of libraries becoming "obsolete" and having our budgets slashed to oblivion despite the fact that our usage is steadily increasing. It seems that when it comes to change, people think librarians feel like this:

It's my hope that this is more false than it is true. Librarians, I feel, actually EMBRACE change. I know so many smart, motivated librarians who are always looking to improve library services by adapting to technological advances and listening to the needs of their patrons. These are the librarians who will help carry libraries into the future.

And we all know who the future belongs to! Yes, as the great Whitney Houston once said, "Crack is whack."

Wait, no. Let me try that again. As the great Whitney Houston once said, "I believe the children are the future." This saccharine line is completely true: kids are future workers, future voters, and future library patrons. The Councilman's essay contest provided me with an opportunity to see how kids view libraries and their role in the community - but more importantly, it let me see that kids see libraries sticking around for a while - they just might look a little different, as you'll see below.

I wish I could share every essay I read, because they were all hilariously brilliant, but here are a few of the quotes I enjoyed. (I couldn't even include all the quotes I wanted to in this post, but trust me, there are some reaaalllly interesting ideas out there.)

What will the library of the future look like?

  1. "The future library will be located in a spaceship. The spaceship will have blue tables and purple chairs. The walls of the future library will be green and magenta. Also, the future library will have many skylights."
  2. "Libraries will have flying desks and iPads for each person." (Is this in the budget?)
  3. "The future library will be open twenty four hours." (I'm not sure, but I THINK this goes against union bylaws.)
  4. "The library will have ninety thousand computers. The library will also have a café."
  5. "If you have a book that is out of date, it will warp back to the library. It also allows you to warp to other libraries."
  6. "Libraries will be floating in the sky. People will have their own planes to get there." 
  7. "As much as I love the library, I’m 100% sure future libraries would be even more awesome. Just think how amazing the library will be in the future, with robots and electronics."
  8. "I also believe that there will be robot librarians. But then again a lot of people know that someday robots will take over the world. Also people think that there will be a war of good robots vs bad robots but here is the good part about all this is that the good robots will be teamed up with all of humanity. But earth is a very strong place and can fight with or without human help." (This kid's going to be a sci-fi writer, you wait and see.)
  9. (This quote also refers to using robots as librarians): "They will be very cost effective because we will not have to pay them." Thanks, kid!
  10. And finally, some sweetness: "The librarians are so friendly, even the shyest person in the world won't be shy anymore." Awww.

At the awards ceremony the other day, each winner got to read his or her essay out loud at one of our library branches (which had just re-opened after three years of being closed for repairs. The community was very happy about that). After hearing what the kids had to say, and seeing the response from the community, I came away from the ceremony feeling optimistic about the future of libraries. (Okay, so, SOME kids want to replace librarians with unpaid robots. Let's try not to let that concern us too much. Most of the kids featured librarians in a positive light in their essays.)

I think the most poignant essay quote I heard that morning was from a third grade girl:

"What does the future of the library look like? It depends on you."

She's right. I couldn't have said it better myself. It doesn't matter if she's talking to kids, adults, patrons, politicians, or librarians. We all need to keep working, keep advocating, keep changing, keep growing. We need to work together to bring libraries into the future.

And perhaps most importantly, we need to be ready to fight all these robots who will try to take our jobs.