Wednesday, December 05, 2012

what future for libraries?

i've spent some of my happiest, most productive hours in libraries over the years. the reg at the u of c, my friend's study carrel in the law library at the university of iowa. harper library at the u of c (an oasis between classes). the hayden library at arizona state. libraries are where i've read and written some of the best things i've read and written.

the hush. the hum of enormous heating (or air conditioning) systems. soft voices of librarians helping library patrons. the smell of books. wandering through the dark, slight mustiness of the stacks, looking for one thing and finding something else and something else and something else. sneaking in a cup of coffee. chuckling over arguments in the marginalia. i just love libraries, also my own collection of books, which is still mostly boxed up here in our home, awaiting remodeling (these photos are from the old house). but you know all that about me if you've been reading mpc for any length of time.

there's a lot of talk about the role of the library in denmark these days. our own little town is going to get a new combination library/culture house - where all kinds of activities will take place. increasingly, libraries are moving more digital - with islands of devices and digital lending of books, music and movies onto your own device. stacks of musty books will, probably within my lifetime, become a thing of the past.

i spend a lot of time at my local library (which is alive and well, even as we await decisions about location and arrangement of the new one). going there helps me concentrate and focus on my often solitary work. just as it always has. just being there, with my laptop, working, i have occasion to see the enormous variety of people who use the library. elderly people who come in everyday to read a selection of newspapers. young people asking help from the librarian for their research project (and here i thought people just googled everything these days - it's refreshing to know they don't). people looking for a bit of inspiration for something to crochet or cook. folks who come in to use the computers. and something called "citizen service" - which is a screen connection to municipal services (i don't know if they use skype or something else - but it's video conferencing with a real person (during certain hours) who answers questions) from a special screen at the library. but the librarians get a lot of questions of well - things i wouldn't have imagined were within their realm to have to know - tax questions, questions related to welfare benefits, etc. i guess what i'm trying to say is that the library is much more than just books these days. and that's only going to continue.

i'm going to teach a blogging course (i think two of them actually) at the library, starting in january - when i went in to ask yesterday about the possibility of doing that, they said yes immediately. they said that was precisely the kind of thing they wanted to support. there will also be more exhibitions and events in the new year. a whole fierce tribe of local, awesome, creative women are going to make art that tells each of our (because obviously i'm one of them) stories and it's going to be on display - so we will both create together and exhibit our creations together - all facilitated by the library. there are music events for and featuring children. an antiques expert comes one saturday per month and values people's treasures. there's a knitting club. and i've held some photo events for both children and adults. the library is so much more than books. it's a place for the community to come together - to share interests and to expand horizons. it's probably the place most responsible, at least where i live, for creating a sense of community.

but i can't help but think that i will still always love the hush. and the smell. and the feel of a physical book in my hands. even as libraries are changing, i hope there will always be at least a corner of actual books. i'm not really ready to let that go quite yet.

do you use your local library? what do you love about it?

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the s boards on pinterest: sawing logs b&b. shoe fetish. sinking. soup's on. soviet. sparkle. stashable. stitching (by far my most populated board, now if i'd just stitch something already). stones rock. styling. surreal.


nacherluver said...

Our public library is amazing! It's big and beautiful and full, full, full of books! Lots of programs offered and artists showcased. Brilliant children's section and so much more. They have a friendship shop in the basement offering coffee, tea and treats as well as discarded books for sale. I love my library. I love all libraries. I am in love with the printed page.

heidikins said...

I have spent many happy and productive hours in libraries, however at this point I mostly use them for their exhibits, lectures, and presentations instead of checking out books. I'll go research something at the library (either the city public library or the one at my university), but most of my pleasure reading is done at home with books I own. My personal library is getting quite diverse, interesting, and can hold my attention for hours and hours. Swoon.


will said...

Of course digital is forcing change ... but the bigger issue and more forceful change to libraries is coming from a lack of tax dollars to support them. We've had library closures simply because of a lack of funding.

You know about the 'battle' I'm in with our local county government ... well, here's something I was told by a county official, something that shocked me.

Approximately 73% of the county's budget goes to law enforcement, prisons, jails and other crime related departments.

That means the county has less than 25% of their budget for everything else.

We live in really tough times.

Magpie said...

i love the library. i love that it lets me indulge in BOOKS at the same time it lets me be FRUGAL. i love that the childrens' librarian can work with almost any question my kid throws at her. i love the potential right there on the shelves.