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At the turn of the century a library without books was unthinkable. Now it seems almost inevitable. Like so many other time-honored institutions of intellectual and cultural life—publishing, journalism, and the university, to name a few—the library finds itself on a precipice at the dawn of a digital era. What are libraries for, if not storing and circulating books? With their hearts cut out, how can they survive?
The recent years of austerity have not been kind to the public library. 2012 marked the third consecutive year in which more than 40 percent of states decreased funding for libraries. In 2009, Pennsylvania, the keystone of the old Carnegie library system, came within 15 Senate votes of closing the Free Library of Philadelphia. In the United Kingdom, a much more severe austerity program shuttered 200 public libraries in 2012 alone.
Ours is not the first era to turn its back on libraries. The Roman Empire boasted an informal system of public libraries, stretching from Spain to the Middle East, which declined and disappeared in the early medieval period. In his book Libraries: An Unquiet History, Matthew Battles calls such disasters “biblioclasms.” -- Read More
“We’re trying to bring together and make openly available to the world the contents of America’s archives, libraries and museums,” Mr. Cohen said. “As much material as we can get online and made available, the better.”
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News story via Lancaster Online, about State Librarian Stacey Aldrich's address to Pennsylvania librarians about modifying the focus away from technology in libraries.
Last year, she spoke mostly the future — advancing technology, and the changing ways that libraries can store information and provide it in new ways to patrons. This year, Aldrich was more reflective. She talked a lot about her travels — to libraries around the state as well as other countries — and she took the group on a visual tour of State Library of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.
She still had a few things to say about technology, though — including the way many people are looking for ways to get away from electronics, even if it’s only for a short break. “A lot of people are looking for ways to disconnect to reconnect,” she said. “They’re turning off the electronics.”
Libraries, which have been scrambling to go high-tech with advanced computer and Wi-Fi options, are also trying to meet the need for patrons to decompress sometimes, Aldrich said. Sometimes, that means sponsoring “digital detox” nights, she said — hosting board games, for instance, and providing opportunities for conversation.
“Look around you. See what people are doing in your community,” she urged.
Despite enduring budget cutbacks and being forced to reinvent their services in the face of the ubiquitous Internet, public libraries remain staple institutions in various communities. There's been an increase in the use of public libraries in the U.S. over the past decade. Services such as public computers doubled in usage in the past 10 years, and libraries saw a circulation increase of 2.46 billion materials in 2010, the highest ever reported, according to a report by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Some libraries bring in more than just patrons. They are also popular amongst tourists, drawing visitors by the tens of thousands, if not millions.
The article has photos of twenty-seven libraries big and small across the US.
We posted a story on this from another source the other day. NPR did a piece this weekend.
In order to survive, it was hammered into our brains again and again, a library has to be more than just a “brick and mortar” receptacle of books. It needs to be a technical hub, a community center, a place you might go instead of Starbuck’s.
However, while these ideas may seem new, they’re long part of a forgotten piece of American history: the settlement house. Namely, Jane Addams’s Hull House of Chicago.
Robert Dawson has been photographing public libraries across the country for almost 20 years. And now, just in time for National Library Week, he has published his photos in a new book called The Public Library. It includes reflections on libraries from Dr. Seuss, Amy Tan, E.B. White and others, but the stars of the book are the photographs, from the New York Public Library — which is as splendid as any great European cathedral — to libraries that are housed in shacks and shopping malls.
Book News on NPR
Even though it's not Friday, Tasha Saecker's Sites and Soundbytes blog has a small sample of some funny-bone crushing 1950's style dime novel covers with a library bent.
"I just can’t stop giggling at these fifties-style paperback covers converted to library humor. There are things here for everyone who has worked in a library."