Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is the Town Library Outdated?

     My Internet friend Brad Szollose recently posted the picture below, asking with some astonishment:  Did you know you can still get a bachelor's degree in library science?

      Actually, I did know that. And I know you can still also get a master's degree in library science, because B has her MLS. She went back to school at age 52, got the degree, and now goes to work every day at the library in our community. The fact is, if you want to get hired as a librarian, at least around where I live, you must have an MLS.

     Her son, a 20-something hipster who works for an Internet marketing company in Brooklyn, NY, thinks along the same lines as Brad (much to his mother's consternation). He thinks libraries are outmoded technology. What do you need a library for when you've got a smartphone in your hand, giving you direct access to most of the world's knowledge?

Young Americans for Liberty's photo.
Maybe he has a point ... but not about librarians!
     And, when somebody pointed out to Brad that there still are plenty of libraries, he responded: Yes, that's true. They still have horses and buggies, too.

     So with a little help from B, I thought I'd outline what libraries do for us, and why they're still an important part of our communities -- despite the fact that a great deal of the world's knowledge is right there in front of us on the Internet. I know I'll never convince B's son; but maybe I can change Brad's mind.

     For one thing, you can borrow books from the library. For free. That's a bargain even if you can download the latest $25 bestseller from amazon for only $7. It's true, you might have to put the book "on hold" and wait a few weeks. But at many libraries you can also download the book onto your e-reader. Again, for free.

     You can also borrow music and movies from the library. Yes, I know they are delivered on those old-fashioned DVDs. But the library has a lot of good movies, classic movies, offbeat indie movies that Netflix doesn't offer.

     B is a children's librarian. She hosts three different book clubs for kids of different ages. The library also offers a number of other programs. Teenagers read books aloud to young children. Younger children read aloud to dogs -- the idea is that it helps kids develop their reading skills in a completely nonjudgmental atmosphere. The library hosts a sleepover for middle school kids once or twice a year.

     But of course it's not just kids. People still come to the library to browse the bookshelves, looking for something good to read. They ask librarians for recommendations. People spend time in the periodical room perusing newspapers and magazines. And they still do occasionally come in looking for reference material.

     There are jigsaw puzzles out on the tables. There are displays featuring various subjects -- Irish history for St. Patrick's day, memoirs about mothers for Mother's Day; thrillers for Halloween. The library features paintings and drawings of local artists in the hallways. And of course there's a bank of computers for the public to use -- if people don't have a computer at home, or their computer is broken, or they need some help, or they just want to get out of the house.

     The library also offers adult programs, bringing in guest speakers to give lessons in basic computer skills. Other experts offer financial advice, literary insights, historical perspectives. There's a dancing class for seniors once a week. There's an adult book club sponsored by the library -- and the library coordinates with several private book clubs in town to help make books available to people.

     In fact, about the only people you usually don't see in the library are the 20-somethings. They're too busy getting their lives started. But kids and families and seniors all come into the library. They spend time there, meet other people, strengthen community ties and enrich their own lives.


Anonymous said...

I was kind of wondering the same thing. Are libraries out dated? But, about 2 weeks ago I was at my local library picking up some movie DVDs and they had a box full of every seed catalog known to man. I spent a pleasant hour or so looking over the catalogs. I thought that was nice.

Olga Hebert said...

Libraries are such a good community resource. They are changing into "maker spaces," but they still have a function worth supporting. I certainly hope they are around to stay.

Janette said...

Our small Kansas town has a library offers free internet and computers, a viewing room, a small conference room for whatever meeting cannot find space, an active children's section. I have witnessed job interviewing, tutoring (I tutor reading), homework helpers and so much more. It is the real community center.
I think that those who have money have think they have little need for a library. Those who are on the edge practically live in the library in my town.

Besides that the town next to ours just expanded their children's section at the tune of several million dollars. It is PACKED!

christina neumann said...

My daughter is getting her MLS right now. She also was just hired part time by a library in our area. She is a natural at it.
I on the other hand , have a masters in counseling but never did anything with it. I work as extra help in our branch library and it is the best job I've ever had. Unfortunately, for me, I'm too old to get hired on as permenant but I love our library.
We are in the midst though of controversy, as 2 branches are slated to close. The communities are fighting library admin to try and change this. But with the budget as it is, I'm not sure it'll be successful. Our libraries provide books, DVDs , BCD, children's programs, free wifi , computers. I think we must never let Farenheit451 come to pass.

rporter610 said...

My career was in academics. As a student in colleges and universities for 14 years (3 degrees earned), I spent most of my life during those years in libraries. I did research in immigration history, presidential campaigns, American labor history, World Wars I and II, the Civil War, and many other topics. Without the resources of university libraries - including medical and scientific libraries - students would not be able to get access to the knowledge gathered in the past. Very little of the vast knowledge in books is available online. Popular culture, yes; scholarly information, no. Libraries are an essential part of an educated society, which I hope the U.S. will work to become.

Barbara said...

I constantly share pictures of the books I check out from the library on my blog. I brag about the features my library offers and how much I appreciate that it is one of the few free sources of entertainment. As a retiree I live on a fixed income. I do not have a smart phone or kindle, although I can download books to my lap top from either the library or kindle free downloads. People who do not see the need for the library are obviously able to afford their lifestyle but not all people can. There are many children and families whose only access to the internet is the library. I see many parents checking out armfuls of picture books with their young readers or pre-readers. I wonder how many of today's successful students started out reading at home with books from the library. I don't see how a kindle can be nearly as exciting to a young person as snuggling up with a big picture book. I also see lots of seniors at my library. For some it is somewhere to go and something to do. For others, especially those of us without the current tech toys, it is the only way we read and keep our minds active. The most important thing for those that don't see the need for libraries is that one day you may be of limited means and require the use of library services. You may be making money now but life happens. One day you may need the internet at the library to look for a job or your children may need it to do their homework. Once a library is gone you can't magically restore it to its once glory. I know it seems old fashioned today but there is a reason to continue to fund and grow libraries. Libraries are for the people. For everyone who isn't walking in your shoes and talking on your smart phone or reading on your kindle. Your neighborhood will be a poorer place without a library. Remember that even if you don't use it, many other will and some of those who do will be the next generation paying the taxes that support the government. It is important to give them all the help you can so we do not become the next third world country.

DJan said...

When someone suggests a book I want to read, I head over to the library website and put a hold on the book. Most of them are good reads but not books I simply must own. When one of those comes along (like The Boys in the Boat), after I read the library copy, I buy it myself. And the computers at my library are always in use! :-)

Barbara said...

DJan, I do the same thing. I get books from the library and then if I really love and have to own it, I will buy off Amazon or Ebay. Works for me.

Stephen Hayes said...

Unfortunately, I can't remember the last time I was in a library. It's really sad.

Mona McGinnis said...

Tom & Barbara, hear! hear! So many are of the opinion that everyone has access to digital information. NOT! The public library in my community is all those things mentioned in your posts. I do download books on my e-reader from the library as well as borrow books. I can still remember the first day I went to the library as a young child. It was like Christmas, having access to all those books.

Jane said...

Our libraries are always packed and they have done a good job of adapting to the time. I am in a nonfiction book group that they sponsor. They are books I probably would not read on my own, led by an excellent librarian.

Pam said...

I have always loved libraries. When I was young, living in the country, the Bookmobile would come to the nearest village every month, and I'd load up on books. Through the years, school and college libraries provided a quiet, safe place to learn. Now that we're older, my farmer husband says, "if the day comes when we have to move to town, I'd like to live near the library." Nuff said.

Linda Myers said...

My little community (population 6,500) has a library that's part of a regional system. I can reserve a book online and have it delivered to our branch in two days. I love it.

When my twin granddaughters come to visit, one of the first things we do is go to the library. They can check out as many books as they want, which we return on the last day of their visit.

And no overdue fees like in my childhood!

Dick Klade said...

I grew up loving the local library. A stern librarian once gave me a reprimand for bringing an armful of borrowed books back too soon! My wife refuses to live where there is no library to service her insatiable reading habit. Our son is on the board of the local district library.

We are true believers. Libraries forever!

Anonymous said...

The jury is stilt on books in print, but around here the libraries have gone digital. Our library system carries films and electronic books as well as audio. I see a future for audio books, and I've used them for this purpose.

Anonymous said...

In 1953, I worked part-time at the Southeast Branch library in Kansas City MO. At that time, I was given to understand that the only degrees available in Library Sciences were MLBs - there was no baccalaureate. Was I misinformed?

I don't understand Christina's statement about being too old to work at the library; but, I understand her statement about Fahrenheit 451! (I have not yet memorized my assigned book - lol!)
Cop Car

Bob Lowry said...

I am moving to another part of the metro area. The first thing I looked for was the closest library. A life without a library is one that is missing something important.

Wisewebwoman said...

At my town's request, I am actually founding a town library, any and all suggestions will be welcome.

A library is more than books and movies and music, it is a social centre, a book club convener, a discussion group.

Wish me luck!


Karen D. Austin said...

My family members and I are regular patrons of our local library. We get books most of the time, but we sometimes check out DVDs. I read more books a year than I have budget for purchasing (60 books or more a year), so I appreciate the savings. Also, I have a storage problem. I have friends who are librarians. They can help people sort through the information overload. When my kids were little, I asked the children's librarian for recs all of the time. Hooray for B.!

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