Saturday, March 29, 2014

Libraries: Here for the Long Haul

Over the years, people have worried about "the end of things." VCRs would mean the end of theaters, for example. Having the ability to tape a song off the radio would be the end of people buying music. Neither of those things have happened, but...let's face it, we can all think of many industries/items/jobs that have vanished, become less prominent or have been replaced by alternatives. Think of the horse and carriage, the ice delivery man, chimney sweeps, switchboard operators. Times change, and the world changes with it.

The end of the community library has been predicted at one time or another, but libraries have proven themselves to be adaptable to a changing world. At one time, they were merely repositories of books. Then they added music and movies in the form of VHS tapes (which were then replaced with DVDs).

Library warning poster

And today, in the era of the ebook and streaming video, they have made even more adjustments. I was on my local library's website the other day, and from the website alone, I can check out ebooks, download movies or music, access databases, get book suggestions, ask a librarian a question, make book purchase suggestions for the library, and take part in an online book club.

If I physically visit the library, I can attend lectures or music performances, rent meeting space, borrow passes to local museums, borrow an ereader if I don't own one, or borrow a "book club in a bag" (a bag with 10 copies of a book, info on the author, suggested discussion topics, questions and other info). I can access computers to do research if I don't have my own, or I can simply use my own laptop to log onto the library's wifi.

This library at Keene State University is in charge of the "Green bikes" program, and students can check out a bicycle via the library.

library lends bikes!

The library in Skokie, Illinois, has a digital media lab (equipped with computers, cameras, video cameras, scanners, microphones, musical instruments, mp3 recorders, and lots of other equipment and software, including a green screen) which patrons can use for videos, music, photos, presentations, podcasts, websites, graphic design and other types of digital presentation.

Libraries are at the cutting edge, always looking for new ways to engage the community. Some offer 3D printers, media kiosks (one article equated them to library Red Boxes) and apps for cell phones that help patrons locate materials in the library, learn more about books or get book recommendations. 

And yes, since libraries rely on tax dollars to operate, many of them are struggling these days. But they are also powerhouses of innovation. 

Long live libraries!


Mary Preston said...

My local library has just moved to a temporary location. The big news is because the old building was too small (and prone to flooding). The brand spanking new library will be finished in late 2015. Bigger, better & should be beautiful.

Our library caters for a massive region.

The library is run by the local council - the largest work force in the area apparently. Knowing how much I pay to the council for my rates I KNOW that they have the funds evermore to put towards the library.

The library is always very busy with patrons.

Myrna Mackenzie said...

Mary, I remember my very first trip to the library, but it never gets old. I'm always glad when communities see the value of libraries and enable them to grow. I'd love to see photos of your new library when it gets built.

Laney4 said...

When I was 5 years old (I was at Toronto Sick Kids Hospital off and on with a hole in my heart till I was 4.5 years of age), my sister (20) walked me to the local library. In those days (1964), old men gathered for their morning coffee and cigars at the round reference tables of the library. It was hard to breathe when entering the building. Shortly thereafter, they moved across the street to an upstairs floor; downstairs was where the old goats gathered, LOL, but by then no smoking was allowed in public buildings. Not long afterward, buildings needed to be on main floors or elevators provided for the handicapped, so they built a new library across town. I've never seen the elevator, but there must be one since there are dozens of winding steps to get upstairs to the non-fiction section. Staff has griped because there is way too much walking when putting books back on shelves upstairs (and they can't do so and tend the main desk at the same time), so plans are in the works for yet another library. (I'm feeling very old at the moment, just thinking about how many libraries I've lived through!)
As a young adult, I moved 25 miles away (but still frequent my hometown library, often putting all their non-fiction books in order via the Dewey Decimal System). We had an old library building that had more problems than you could count, so City Council decided to build across the street in this fancy schmancy building to adore. Well, I hate it, as do most city residents. I hate it so much that I drive 20 minutes away to another (smaller) town (halfway between my original hometown and my current city of residence) to take out their books instead. MY city's library doesn't have finished ceilings on the top (non-fiction) floor, so you can see all the black dismal pipes/nearby town has finished white ceilings everywhere. City has departments on three floors/town is all on one floor. City has shelves above my head (and I'm close to 6' tall in my orthotics)/town has shelves less than 5' high so everyone can see over them. City doesn't have many windows/town has entire rounded wall with almost floor to ceiling windows, overlooking the bay. City has loud, very "unhelpful" employees/town has pleasant, quiet, and quite helpful staff. City installed beautiful stained glass windows - way far away from the elevators, so most elderly people who would enjoy them not only can't get to them, but also have no seats provided to sit and enjoy them/town has numerous seats and tables along the windows by the bay. City has motion lights to save money, but if I'm looking for a book on a shelf, the lights all go out and I must move about to turn them back on (yet still bend down to see books on the bottom shelf)/town has regular lighting system. City has minimal parking lots in nearby areas that cost money Mondays through Fridays (so I only go there on Saturdays)/town has a huge parking lot with free parking every day of the week. My blood pressure goes up every time I must enter the local city library/my body relaxes and I breathe deeply when entering the town library.

Myrna Mackenzie said...

Laney4, I consider myself an environmentalist, but...motion sensor lights in a library? All those lights blinking on and off would drive me crazy (I think). Your library by the bay sounds awesome!