Articles: Information and Society, Week 1 (Libr200)

This week I’ve read several interesting articles and book chapters about why libraries are important, what they do for the community, and why we shouldn’t worry that they’ll go away. 

[Ryan, J.C. (1999). The public library. Seven Wonders: Everyday Things for a Healthier Planet. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. 53-60.]
This chapter explained that by supporting a library, and using its resources, customers are saving the planet.  Every time they check out materials, the customer is reusing something they might have otherwise purchased new.  This is interesting, because such things as borrowing from your neighbors has fallen by the wayside, but borrowing from the library (or even the video rental store) is still as popular as ever.  “The Public Library” discusses why people use the library, and how we can get them to do more to reuse rather than buy new.

[Macintyre, B. (2004, December 18) Paradise is Paper, Vellum and Dust: Libraries will Survive the Digital Revolution because They are Places of Sensuality and Power. Times Online.]
Ben Macintyre explains that libraries will never disappear, even if Google succeeds with its quest to digitize all printed information.  Libraries are powerful and filled with knowledge.  There’s a spirituality to visiting the library, especially if it’s ancient.  However, libraries must evolve and actively attract new people; the internet should be the beginning rather than the end of the customer’s search.  If the library doesn’t try, it will lose its validity for today’s consumer and will only be thought of nostalgically.

Strong, G. Libraries empower people to participate in a civil society. Emerging Visions for Access in the Twenty-first Century Library,  April 21-22, 2003. Institutes for Information Science, Council on Library and Information Resources and the California Digital Library, Council on Library and Information Resources: Washington, DC. 27-33.
This article discusses what the Queens public library (in New York) has done to stay valid for its community.  They focus on (1) being state of the art, (2) books and reading, (3) quality customer service, and (4) teens and children.  Add into this their ethnic and performing arts programming, community education, and special language collections, and the community goes wild.  They also have an International Relations Office that coordinates with other countries to allow library personnel to learn “from the source.”  In short, by providing a broad base of information and focusing on the community’s needs, the Queens Library is seeing more people than ever before.

American Library Association. (2006). The new American library.  State of America’s Libraries Report, 2006 State of America’s Libraries Report. [http://www.ala.org/ala/pressreleases2006/march2006/stateoflibraries.htm]
In the section titled “The New American Library,” the ALA reports that the library’s definition has changed to include all the resources it provides, and that changing technology has brought more people to the library than ever before.  This is great, but one of the problems is that budgetary constraints keep libraries from answering the public’s demand for true high speed internet access.  Even with this increased usage, adult illiteracy is still very high.  This section also discussed the Bookmobile’s 100th anniversary, and the oral history project called StoryCorps.

Hartman, C. W. (2000). Memory, Palace, Place of Refuge, Coney Island of the Mind: The Evolving Role of the Library in the Late 20th Century.  Research Strategies 17, 107-121.
At first glance this article seems to be much like any other, describing the ways libraries might change to keep the public’s attention.  What’s interesting, is that this article was written by an architect who discussed the ways the building itself affects its use and the public’s impression of it.  Hartman explains that as new libraries are being built, they’re not just libraries any more.  Many have become the cultural and entertainment capitals of their cities.  They often inculde museums, performing spaces, gathering spaces, coffee shops, book stores, lecture spaces, archives, study areas, AND the stereotypical library stacks.  But in designing these new buildings, architects must take into account and plan for the fact that reading is a quiet activity; noisy activities should be kept far away from quiet spaces.  It was interesting to read about changes in the library from an architectural point of view.

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