Arnold Maurins became director of the Washoe County Library System in 2008. He brought to the job an economics degree from the University of Santa Clara, a library science master's from San Jose University, and experience in several lower level library positions before taking the directorship. He spoke with us about the role of a library in a high tech world.
You didn’t start out with the traditional credentials of a librarian.
No. I got a degree in economics, thinking that I’d go to law school. And I went to law school for a year and a half and decided I didn’t want to be an attorney. I came back and took an aptitude test, and it kind of confirmed what I’d already suspected—I liked libraries and that kind of environment. … So I went to library school and got my degree, my master’s there.
Do you have trouble staying ahead of the technology?
I think we’re doing the best we can, given the resources that we’ve got. There’s some limitations on what we can do as far as what the county does with technology. They’re generally one or two releases behind the latest software and that kind of thing, but I think within those limitations … we’re doing pretty well. Staff is starting to use mobile devices like tablets out in the stacks, helping people. And we’re going to start lending out those kinds of things to the public for them to use and maybe having a bar setup in the library where they can use those kinds of things and try out the latest stuff. So I think we’re doing pretty well.
Do you have difficulty with obtaining the latest stuff and it becomes obsolete about 10 minutes after you buy it?
There are some problems with that kind of thing. … The devices that we provide generally stay current for a fair amount of time. It’s not like we buy something and next week it’s obsolete. For the most part we do pretty well. We’re trying to buy things that have a good track record and from companies that are not fly by night.
How much have hard times hurt your ability to stay current?
Yes, our technology budget took a big hit with, you know, the budget problems. … We’re slowly getting that money back, but it is a challenge. It definitely is. There’s a lot of things we’d like to do as far as having more modern public computers, you know, in the branches, and that kind of thing, but we just can’t. You know, we’re doing it in kind of slow steps. … Hopefully, in the next three or four years, the budget will start increasing again.
Do you find people here think of a library as a place where they can get books and not look beyond that to using tablets, computers, that kind of thing?
We do get some people who are surprised at that. It depends on if they’ve grown up in this area or if they come from outside. Some people do come in and they are surprised.