Saturday, December 03, 2011

Public Libraries Turn Up The Volume (Literally)

Dis is de liberry.
Oh shush kitteh.  You b stuk in tyme warp.


There seems to be a new trend in some library systems.  Especially the bigger metropolis area ones.  And that is to have less 'hush' and more media mashup. Among the changes from the library ambiance I remember from the 60s is story hours for small children that include singing and dancing, media rooms for teens that have video games to play, movies to watch, and video equipment for them to make and edit films.  Some libraries even have coffee bars and allow food and drink and conversation a la cafes.

In other words the library is morphing from that silent sanctuary for study and self-absorbed reading into something more akin to community centers.

Apparently there is controversy about it.  Isn't there always when new ways challenge old ways?  

I for one am all for anything that maximizes the use of the libraries.  Here in the Rogue Valley OR several years ago we had a six month closure of our 15 branch library system for lack of funds and when it reopened the hours for most branches were cut back by half or more.  My branch is open only three days per week for a total of 24 hours.  Even the large Medford branch was cut back to 24 hours, tho they spread it over 4 days.  And when the libraries reopened it was without most of our beloved and experienced librarians.  The job of running them was given over to an out of state company.  And at Medford the few times I've been back since the closure in 2006 I saw more security guards than I did librarians and the whole atmosphere of the place was more like a prison than any library I'd ever been in before. 

Maybe if the library system had been catering to a wider audience, if more people had depended on the system for services they couldn't get elsewhere--like a place to congregate and feel welcome and at ease, a safe place where their kids would want to hang out--just maybe there would have been enough votes to keep the funding.

Libraries all over are in jeopardy of loosing funds during these severe economic times and it is just now when things are so bad in the economy that we need them the most tho it is hard to imagine needing them any less when times are good.  It is just that they are depended upon by the job seekers for access to job listings and use of computers and internet, for would be entrepreneurs for aid in finding all the info they need to start a business, for classes on how to maximize job hunting efforts, write successful resumes, and conduct oneself on interviews.

What do you depend on your library for?  How would it impact your life to be without it?

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