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Archive for Monday, October 2, 2006

Libraries are limited, obsolete

October 2, 2006

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As a long-time resident of Lawrence, and one who has devoted his entire life to education, I have followed the debate concerning a new library for Lawrence with great interest. As a parent of three students, two in college and one teenager at Southwest Junior High, I have witnessed a stunning transformation in the way kids access and use information technology. All that I see as a parent reinforces what I see at work every day:

1. Libraries are inefficient. Like me, kids seek fast, convenient access to up-to-date information. That's available on the Internet. In this new information age, libraries are an obsolete place to store and disseminate information. Rather than speed access to reliable, up-to-date information, libraries provide only remote, slow and inconvenient access to limited and often outdated information.

Go to any library. The stacks are empty; it's the computers that are busy. Then ask yourself if it makes sense to locate those computers in one central and remote location, like a downtown library, or instead locate the computers where kids, seniors, and everyone else wants to use them.

2. Libraries are limited. Everybody wants access to reliable information. The Internet is a gateway to unlimited data and information about government, business, and the community. Multiple information providers on the Internet make fact checking easy and reliable. No single person, such as a librarian, can or should be relied upon to verify accuracy. Single sources for information verification are inefficient and potentially dangerous.

3. Libraries are obsolete. Modern information technology involves two-way communication between providers and users of information technology. With instant messaging, blogs, message boards, and email, the Internet fosters information sharing among virtually unlimited numbers of information providers. Computers are communication devices that bring communities together.

Rather than build an expensive new library downtown in the mistaken belief that such a monument to 19th century information technology will bring the community together, the city of Lawrence needs to consider the real advantages to bringing our entire community's information infrastructure into the 21st century.

We need to embark on an aggressive plan to bring broadband access to the doorstep of each and every home in Lawrence. There is no need to do anything in west Lawrence, the private sector has already done that in the newer part of town. It's east Lawrence, the older part of town, that desperately needs access to new information technology.

Don't expect kids, seniors, and everyone else to trudge downtown for the convenience of librarians. Put information technology at the fingertips of every kid, and every senior in Lawrence. Because low incomes limit the ability of some to connect to high-speed access, even when it's brought to their door, the city might give low-income families computers on a needs basis. Otherwise, offer reliable Internet access at small 24/7 City of Lawrence Free Internet Cafes ("libraries") that are broadly distributed for easy walking access by kids and seniors.

Before the City of Lawrence commits to wasting millions of dollars on a new downtown library, ask yourself a few questions. When was the last time you were at the library? When was the last time you logged on? Why is that?

- Mark Hirschey is a resident of Lawrence.

Comments

lib101 7 years, 5 months ago

Gee...seems we have some interest in the new library. Marion...is that in "Marion Librarian"...how about we consider the following relative to your desire for dialog regarding the 70 MILLION. What are you willing to spend money on? Do you vote against bond acts that provide funding for education? My take is that libraries can save the world...I believe in libraries. The Internet is...well what it is...it cannot replace the library as a major institution of learning in any community. It is a tool...used appropriately a very good tool. Mr. Hirschey's comments are good for the discussion of what we need...better still, want from the library of the future. Starting with heart and soul of a community is good...it is important to not get caught up in the tools...books, databases, technology, etc. What we need is people serving up the learning experiences most wanted by residents. We need a library because it offers a chance for all of us to learn...close the gaps that divide us. One individual commented about the purpose of the library being more about knowledge...rather than information. A gentleman named Mortimer Adler talked about the "four goods of the mind"..."information, knowlege, understanding and wisdom." I believe the library of the future needs to focus on human learning experiences that create a better understanding of the world around us. If you worry about spending money...tax money...consider what we spend of wars, prisions, etc. How do we best invest our tax dollars? We must prioritize and "do the right thing!" I really do not think paying fewer taxes so that individuals have more money is that great...I do believe we need to be prudent. Keeping more money for ourselves only widens the gap between the haves and havenots. Let's make sure we get a good bang for our buck...let's look at how much is being spent per square foot on the new library...what is being purchased, etc. Let's not cut off our nose to spite our face. peace

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librarianny 7 years, 6 months ago

Professor Hirschey seems to be confusing librarians with politicians.

Librarians bring you the local branch and the bookmobile. They bring you subsidized database services and DVD loans. They bring you fact-checked reference books arranged by subject and story books that kids can reach, in English, Spanish and Chinese. They bring you more for less.

Politicians bring you photo ops, well-connected construction projects, and half-conceived ideas. They bring you less for more: fancy new library buildings are often followed by staff cuts, salary freezes and depleted acquisitions budgets.

Professor Hirschey is correct that the public should examine its priorities. If resources are scarce, maybe people don't need showcase buildings, but they do need rich, convenient collections and adequate staffing.

In the meantime, librarians, caught between ravaged budgets and politics, do what they can. The notion of anyone trekking anywhere for their convenience is downright laughable.

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stephenpomes 7 years, 6 months ago

Besides fulfilling a purely "utilitarian" function through dispensing information, public libraries provide materials for recreational use in the form of fiction books, movies, music recordings, and other materials.

As a resident of the New Orleans metropolitan area, I know that public libraries are a vital part of my community. Because of Hurricane Katrina, we lost many public library branches due to flooding and wind damage. Local governments made quick and determined efforts to reopen these library facilities promptly, because residents rely on them for materials in rebuilding efforts. For example, residents use these libraries for books on plumbing, construction, and electrical work.

When New Orleans area residents evacuated from Hurricane Katrina, they visited public libraries in other areas to locate news stories on the hurricane, to reconnect with friends and relatives through e-mail, and to apply for disaster assistance.

A public library is a vital part of a community, and I hope that your residents will see that support for your library services and better Internet access complement one another.

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stephenpomes 7 years, 6 months ago

A friend alerted me to Mr. Hirschey's comments on a proposed new library in your community. While I'm not familiar with all of the details about the proposal, I have worked as a librarian for the last 16 years and feel compelled to comment.

As a librarian, I use the Internet daily at work and at home. I recognize its great value and its limitations. I use my local public library at least once a week - sometimes more. I use both for business and pleasure.

Mr. Hirschey appears to be enamored with such things as e-mail, blogs, instant messaging, and the wealth of stuff on the Internet. From my reading of his comments, he seems to pit financial support for broadband access versus financial support for library services. I don't fully know the financial realities of public sector budgets in Lawrence, but this strikes me as being a false dilemma. I see support for public libraries and increased Internet accessibility as being complementary and not in opposition with each other.

While it is true that there is a wealth of things on the Internet, it is also true that much of the material on the Internet is not verifiable. Anyone can post statements to websites, message boards, blogs, etc., without having to back up their assertions. In using these sites, we must trust that the responsible parties are being truthful with their users.

Mr. Hirschey speaks of information resources on the web, but he makes no reference to the many online materials that the local library provides. A quick visit to the Lawrence Kansas Public Library website showed me that your library, like other community libraries, subscribes to subscription databases. These databases provide access to full text materials, including newspapers, scholarly journals, and reference sources. These materials are not free; they are available because your library obtains them through paid subscriptions. If your library did not exist, your residents would either have to do without them or access these materials on a "pay per view" basis.

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hodgie 7 years, 6 months ago

In response to jayhawks71 query about how much databases cost a library, here are a couple of figures for you:

The EBSCOhost bundle pacakge (comes with several dateabases) for a medium sized library costs about $60,000. INFOTRAC for the same sized library, costs about $20,000.

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mhayden 7 years, 6 months ago

I think Mr. Hirschney is entirely wrong. Libraries are even more relevent today than ever before. They allow access to information (interent use, etc.) and books for people who would not otherwise be able to afford it and can help teach people in community how to discern correct from wrong information.
Mr. Hirschney also said in his article that any information can be found on the internet so why spend money on a new library. Well, as a librarian, I know for a fact that not everything can be found on the internet and not everything is free on the internet either. That's where the public's tax dollars come into play. The more money a community is willing to put into their library the better resources they can provide for its residents.
So you see, Mr. Hirschney, not funding a new library may pave the way to a new dark age, not just save a few tax dollars.
Mary Ann Hayden, Librarian

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wyrlss 7 years, 6 months ago

"Great article! It seems like the library is only being used by the homeless and those who don't know how to use a computer."

You know, I just think it's terrible that people who are suffering from homelessness should have the privilege of being able to access information and services that those of us with homes take for granted. In fact, we should just make homelessness illegal, and send them all to prison.

Also, they should remove the LPL's rights to my swimming pool's parking lot. I don't want to swim, just pee, but dammit, I WANNA PARK!

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jayhawks71 7 years, 6 months ago

This comment from the article is simply false.

"Libraries are limited. Everybody wants access to reliable information. The Internet is a gateway to unlimited data and information about government, business, and the community. Multiple information providers on the Internet make fact checking easy and reliable. No single person, such as a librarian, can or should be relied upon to verify accuracy. Single sources for information verification are inefficient and potentially dangerous."

Yes libraries are limited, but has the author ever searched for say, medical information? You find the exact same wordings posted on multiple sites. He criticizes single sources of information, yet, what you find is a common source used for many sites. This gives the appearance of agreement among the many sources, but all it reflects is some copy editors decisions being cut and pasted all over the place. Further, the expertise of a quality, well-trained librarian can point a researcher to reputable sources. Much of what is on the internet is either crap, unverified, or worse, posted on a well manicured site with a "doctor's" picture giving the impression that the information is more valid than it probably is.

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jayhawks71 7 years, 6 months ago

I disagree with much of the article on the obsolesence of libraries; however, I have done "real research" and a smart researcher can find peer-reviewed journal articles through a google search. I find hundreds of articles that are not available directly via the online databases.

And PLEASE do not mention how access to anything that a library offers, a book, a movie, a database, etc... are FREE. They are NOT free. There may not be a pay-per-use fee, but it gets paid for somehow. Those databases aren't free! Would the person who posted as if he/she were a librarian care to tell us the annual/monthly/per query subscription rates of those databases that are provided "free" to the public.

Stop confusing socialism and collectivism with something being free. The cost is simply diffused among people, many of whom do not use a government service. That said, I think libraries still have value, but there really is no such thing as a free lunch.

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roger_o_thornhill 7 years, 6 months ago

People should not be confused. This is an opinion piece-not an article. There is a BIG difference, and I had hoped that people reading a newspaper (website) would know the difference. I've seen several people mention that"this article is..." The answer is "this article is...not an article." It is a letter (or probably email) sent to the newspaper that reflects their own opinion and isn't held to the same standards as the actual articles that appear in a newspaper. Of course maybe the problem is larger still...Maybe some people don't realize that the whole op-ed section is that way. Its not all facts folks.

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Wilbur_Nether 7 years, 6 months ago

Insertwithere placed this banter in the 1:03 post: "It seems to me that $70 million is a reasonable price for a modern library...."

Oh, now you've done it. Now you're going to hear all about how it can be done with duct tape, corrugated cardboard, and Saran Wrap (tm) for less than $25; you will be regaled with unassailable explanations of how this structure will not only be less expensive but last twice as long as the structure under proposal; how those of us who go there are either homeless or otherwise scourge-like.

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jonas 7 years, 6 months ago

AAAAAAAAHAHQAHQAHAHAHAHAHA!

This article got a greenlight on Fark! Wonderful! Dumb@$$ tag and everything!

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

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missourilibrarian 7 years, 6 months ago

I am so proud of the comments my fellow librarians have made and won't even try to say it any better. I thought I'd share the contents of a poster that I placed at the entrance of my library: http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/selectedarticles/10reasonswhy.htm

Rock on librarians! Mr. Hirschey, you would do well not to get librarians riled up. In a "fact war," we'll always win...

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quatermass 7 years, 6 months ago

Imagine a colossal publisher that will accept, without question, any manuscript regardless of its contents or who wrote it, and will print it. That is essentially what the Internet allows anyone to do who knows a little html. Now imagine trying to search through that publisher's catalog - Chaotic, right?

Libraries and librarians bring order to the chaos, INCREASING efficiency by organizing the information retrieved. The Internet does not do that. I would argue that directly BECAUSE of the Internet, they're needed more than ever.

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Roxannerr 7 years, 6 months ago

First of all I would like to say that I am not a resident of Kansas. Secondly I would like to ask Mr. Hirschey what his city will do for people who are not as "web savvy" as he and the rest of his ilk. Public libraries ensure that every man, woman and child has the same access to information. That was Andrew Carnegie's idea - equality for all people. I think quartermass hit on the most important fact that libraries and the internet are complimentary. Both the internet and public libraries have been called the "great equalizer".

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Insertwithere 7 years, 6 months ago

Just to fuel the fire...

Just imagine how much it would cost to create the utopian, web-friendly society Mr. Hirschey mentions. Getting computers and internet access to a whole town's worth of people, even a small town, would be astronomically expensive. Just the cost of laying fiber optic or T1 cable would probably cost a million or so. If every person in Lawrence bought a computer or laptop, they'd be spending more than $700, right?

Quality buildings that can safely house collections of books, journals, DVDs and other media as well as provide space for community building and learning are not cheap. It seems to me that $70 million is a reasonable price for a modern library. There ARE people in this country who spend as much on a single house. There are towns throughout this country (I've lived in more than one) where the populace would be overjoyed for their municipal leaders to dedicate so much money to such a worthy cause.

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quatermass 7 years, 6 months ago

"Libraries are inefficient. Like me, kids seek fast, convenient access to up-to-date information. That's available on the Internet. In this new information age, libraries are an obsolete place to store and disseminate information. Rather than speed access to reliable, up-to-date information, libraries provide only remote, slow and inconvenient access to limited and often outdated information."

"Libraries are limited. Everybody wants access to reliable information. The Internet is a gateway to unlimited data and information about government, business, and the community."

This is the same kind of commentary that permeated the library world about ten years ago ("You can just get it on the internet"). It is also the same mentality that influenced corporations to lay off their librarians during that time, only to be forced to rehire them a year later - why? Because, to use an interesting metaphor I once heard, the Internet is akin to a library of almost infinite dimensions, with all its books haphazardly thrown on the floor. I'd like to juxtapose the rosy, utopian characterization of the internet above by detailing several very real problems with researching and extracting its information:

-There is no cohesive, universal order that organizes its contents.

-Since anyone can contribute, there is a vast amount of material generated from questionable sources that often has to be sifted to locate anything authoritarian or academic.

-Documentation, particularly in html, can be doctored with relative ease.

-As opposed to the Internet of the early 1990, in which there really was a good deal of useful and free material, today's situation is much more proprietary and money-driven. Often the most authorative research material can be had only through a costly subscription.

All these are reasons why the library is NOT obsolete, because it excels in the very aspects that the Internet falters in. Certainly, there are reasons specific to Lawrence, Kansas (No I am NOT a resident, just offering 2 cents) as to why a debate exists over the expense of the new library, and if residents do believe that the proposition is too large of a tax burden, then maybe there should be appropriate revisions to reduce the scale of the proposed library (I say this being a librarian myself). But to propose a complete rejection of the library as an institution is certainly not a way forward. In order to satisfy information needs, we should view libraries and the Internet not in opposition, but as complimentary to each other. Each have their advantages and disadvantages, its just a matter of applying the right method for the situation.

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JerryO 7 years, 6 months ago

Here's an article from a computer magazine site with quite a different opinion.

"Most reliable search tool could be your librarian" http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-6120778.html

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Nate Poell 7 years, 6 months ago

holygrailale nailed it right from the getgo.

Best part is this article earned its author the very esteemed "Dumbass" tag at fark: http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=2331364. Congratulations, Mr. Hirschey!

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roger_o_thornhill 7 years, 6 months ago

If you don't use the library, don't knock it. I don't say anything bad about the millions spent on swimming pools in this town despite the fact that they are completely unnecessary.

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one_more_bob 7 years, 6 months ago

& why should we give a rat's patootie?

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Kerashi 7 years, 6 months ago

While it is true that a great deal of information can be had off of the internet, the truth is that the average book has a lot more information than the average internet article. Also, the trend is to make any copyrighted materials available only at retail price, and with Digital Rights Management technology to prevent copying, if they are provided at all. Libraries provide such materials without charge. Also, libraries make wonderful historical references. Try finding any information on the history of your community on the internet, and you will be disappointed. Any good library will have a wealth of community history references. And while current events knowledge could potentially be best gleaned from the internet, there are a great many subjects that are served far better by print media. Do-it-yourself books for those who don't like spending all their time in front of a computer, copyrighted materials that the authors don't want posted on the internet, there remain many cases in which libraries are important.

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lrN51EXCXydF 7 years, 6 months ago

LOL - the person who needs to learn how to use a library is the guy who wrote that letter/op-ed piece.

Once again Kansas is the laughing stock of the country.

Since the internet is so great, please use it tell me the name of any article in "The Meat City Press," May 1972, vol. 1, no. 1 (hint: this information is available at the library and easy to get, too).

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lelly 7 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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bookgrrrl 7 years, 6 months ago

First, a big shout out to all the library lovers out there. Second, a colleague pointed out to me that professor Hirschey was the 2005 recepient of the Anderson Chandler Professorship in Business - the same Anderson Chandler who is a generous donor to public libraries.

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kgs 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm a digital library manager, and my work is in the online world, but I'm also a writer and researcher. I wish that my research needs were met with whatever free stuff I could snarf up on the Web--how easy that would be. But the reality is that quite a bit of information is held in fee-based databases, which people can either expensively access one article at a time or which the library can broker for communities and make available. The library is my advocate for and supplier of that information. If not the library, who else?

Mark Hirschey says that bringing broadband to every home in Lawrence is important. I can't imagine anyone disagreeing with that. In fact, I do most of my library visits online--checking databases, seeing what events are planned, downloading ebooks. Better broadband complements the idea of better library service. The library can find, organize, and make available content that would be expensive or hard to find for the average citizen. There is no either/or for broadband and library service.

Not only that, but it will be decades or longer before everything I need for research is online--if ever. Somebody has to buy, store, and make available this stuff. Or does Hirschey's "research" for his academic work only go back as far as whatever he can Google up? I'm guessing that he bases a lot of his own work on library services provided by his own institution--in which case what he really means is that his own needs are met by library services, just not public library services. That's fine, but it doesn't explain why the rest of Lawrence shouldn't have access to quality library services.

Hirschey states that the proposed location is a problem. But some communities have found that flagship libraries are part of their downtown revitalization, and that property values go up when new libraries, with their foot traffic, tourism appeal, and skyline enhancements, take the place of weary old buildings. Also, as libraries increasingly offer virtual services, it doesn't matter as much where the library is located, so a central facility may work best. Also, maintaining multiple facilities is expensive; they need to be staffed, lit, and heated. Let's hear the library's rationale for its proposed location before rejecting it.

Finally, the library is one of the last few public spaces in society. Go to many libraries these days and you see people reading their own books and surfing on their own laptops. Why is this? Because we seek community for our intellectual pursuits, much as we seek community for other pursuits. A grand library is a place to think and dream and explore--a place built by the people, for the people.

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hodgie 7 years, 6 months ago

First, I love the defenders of why libraries are needed and not obsolete.

Second, I'd like to answer Curious's question about the classics at the library. Classics are important to have at a library and LPL most likely has them, they're probably checked out. If they're not in the catalog, it's possible that they weren't being read, which means that they were taking up shelf space, which means they were probably discarded (given to the Friends' book sale) in order to make more room for books that people requested the library purchase. LPL is small! It doesn't have the space to house all the classics that you want to have at hand and the new books, too. This is why LPL needs a larger space.

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BunE 7 years, 6 months ago

Any letter that starts with "As a long-time resident of Lawrence, and one who has devoted his entire life to education" and then goes on to speak as if their insight into this issue is special, must not have much confidence in their powers of persuasion...Perhaps abit more time in a Library honing that skill?

I joke...because I love...

Libraries will never be obsolete.

Librairies are not just about books and the homeless and renting DVD's. They are in fact a clearinghouse of information, a tool for community development, a meetinghouse for ideas and a shelter from ignorance. Libraries are most importantly the embodiement of the idea that knowledge and information is worthy of being stored and shared in a central location. Further, a beautiful, spacious and well designed building provides the proper setting for the pursuit of knowledge.

$70 million? Maybe, but in 5 years that becomes $100 million, Are some of you suggesting temp solutions like our underfunded school infrastructure? Many of the "anti" crowd will complain about anything funded by the community, attempting to frame the issue as "don't raise my taxes". To stop the argument with that is a disservice to the community. Libraries are as important as sidewalks, sewers and zoning. Lawrence should build a library system that showcases the best of the community and strives to improve the community as well. What does Lawrence want to be?

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libraffe 7 years, 6 months ago

Here are some more studies you might find interesting if you are concerned about the economic impact and return on investment provided by libraries: http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/bld/roi/publications.cfm

http://www.clpgh.org/about/economicimpact/

http://www.libsci.sc.edu/SCEIS/home.htm

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lamuella 7 years, 6 months ago

something that is being missed here is the effect that a library building can have in revitalizing an area, especially a city center.

The ImaginOn children's library was built on what was then unused land in the center of Charlotte. Charlotte is, despite people's efforts, not a very kid-friendly city center. Most of the people there are there to work. I volunteered at the Children's Room at the Main Library in Charlotte several years ago, and was surprised by the lack of walk-up traffic for the children's department. We had a lot of kids coming there as part of school groups, and a lot of parents coming in to pick up materials for their kids, but it did not feel like a community library.

ImaginOn changed all that. It was built as a modern, evolved library structure, not just a depository for books. It combines traditional library functions with a children's theater, state of the art computer and technology facilities (not just publically available computers, but also video editing suites, blue-screen movie production facilities and many others), and other things that many people here have no idea that the library offers. The result has been that not only is ImaginOn packed with people, but also the whole downtown area has been revitalized. Traffic into the city center from city residents coming to use the new children's library combines with out of town traffic from people coming to see this wonderful new facility. This benefits the whole community. It makes the library a place to go, not just a place to pick up books.

I personally think that it is worth every penny spent on it.

I notice in this discussion that Marion is fixated on the "70 million" (or in her words "SEVENTY MILLION") figure. How was this figure arrived at? The library themselves say that they are looking to spend a similar amount to what Topeka spent, which is twenty three million.

Marion, how did you arive at the figure you parrot so frequently?

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one_more_bob 7 years, 6 months ago

"Lots of noise and smoke but few facts which justify the spending of over $700 for each and every person living in Lawrence."

You

don't

live

in

Lawrence

,

do

you

?

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Greebie 7 years, 6 months ago

Actually, the reason why the stacks in the library are empty is because people are using the internet to place holds, send them to their favorite branch and take the book out with hardly a whisp of a problem.

At least that's what happens at my library.

But of course, all those Internet addicts would know this being so "in touch" and all.

Oh, and facts http://www.dochzi.com/bibs/valueoflib.htm

Start reading. You might have to go to your library's website to access many of these articles, because for-profit companies are the ones with the access to the real hard data (not op ed pieces like the one above).

Mwahahahaahaha!

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conservative 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't think that libraries are obsolete because of the internet, but I do think that there is less demand for them. I'm certainly not going to say that this city doesn't need a library, not even going to say that it wouldn't be good to update the existing one.

But I don't see the need for a tripling of the size of the existing one. All the people who keep talking about the need for research need to remember the resources up on campus that are open to the public. Even if we constructed the new library as originally envisioned it wouldn't compare with the resources of KU.

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Marion Lynn 7 years, 6 months ago

Seems that a chord has been struck that has LibrarianInBlack fairly wound up.

I even agree with much of what the Dark One has written but I fail to see anything in the Librarian's posts which justify a $70 million expenditure.

Lots of noise and smoke but few facts which justify the spending of over $700 for each and every person living in Lawrence.

Oh and that is BEFORE stocking said $70 million library.

If you have FACTS which may lend credence to the requirement for this extravagrant municipal shopping spree, please post them.

I read lots of emotional pleading but little in the way of hard justification for this plan.

Thanks.

Marion.

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Curious 7 years, 6 months ago

Only problem I have with the Lawrence Library is that I can't find old books. Where are the classics I would like to read again? I love a book that looks like decades of people have read it.

Maybe I just don't know where to look - alphabetical in the fiction shelves?

Lots of new books - with subjects I won't touch with a ten foot pole. But where do I find the tried and true classics?

I do very much appreciate the fact that I can call them up and get an obscure book from some way out of the way places.

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LibrarianInBlack 7 years, 6 months ago

The following is an excerpt of a post I made on my own website as a response to this ill-informed piece: http://librarianinblack.typepad.com/librarianinblack/2006/10/libraries_are_l.html


First, to the author of the piece: when was the last time you were in the library, sir? Did you bother to check your facts before writing your article? Probably not. My guess is that you, for whatever reason, have no concept of what a modern day library is like, and are instead functioning under the disillusion that the library is still what it was when you went to school decades ago.

Visiting the Lawrence Public Library's website, I find that they offer twenty online databases, offering full-text magazine and newspaper articles, among many other things. In my experience, these online periodical databases have the latest issue of the magazine or newspaper even before it hits the shelves. So, in this case, guess what? The library is offering information that is more up to date than you can find anywhere else. And 99% of this information is NOT AVAILBLE ON THE OPEN WEB. You will not find this stuff through search engines or any other free source online.

The Internet is actually quite limited. Only a small percentage of the world's data and knowledge is in digital format at all, much less available to the public at all, much less available on the open web to find through search engines. That said, the Internet is a valuable tool that librarians use for research assistance every day...but it's just that: one tool in a toolkit of many other tools that your local librarians know about and want to share with you.

I will agree with you on one point: single sources for information verification are dangerous. That's why librarians don't rely on a single source--we help you find multiple sources, and help you verify their validity and reliability before we recommend them as good sources.

Most libraries across the country have led the way in bringing these new technologies into the hands of their community members. For example, your library is available via e-mail to answer reference questions (also by phone and in-person). There is also a live tutor service available online through your library that will connect (for free) students with a professional tutor via a form of instant messaging to help them with their homework.

19th century? Wow. Your library offers downloadable audiobooks, videogame tournaments for teens, online library card applications, free wireless, free popular online magazines and newspapers, and free live online tutors for your kids. I don't think you can get much more 21st century than that.

The funny thing at the end of it all is that this gentleman is a perfect example of why we still desperately do need libraries in our communities--to provide access to the world of information and to teach the research skills that he so clearly lacks.

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ahniwa 7 years, 6 months ago

Technology is changing rapidly, and therefore so are people's needs. But the point of a library is not (in my opinion), to do its "library thing" with no consideration to the needs and desires of the community. The fact is that as the world changes, libraries change too, and strong libraries in strong communities will never become obsolete because they will always grow to meet their users' needs.

That said, if you really feel like the library isn't serving you, why not get involved? A new library is a great opportunity to voice an opinion on what roles and services you would like the library to provide. How about a large meeting room to host community activities? The Princeton Public Library opened its facilities to host the World Cup and became a great place for community to come together and enjoy the sport (via Tame the Web). Computer instruction in libraries often helps those people in the community who would otherwise have no idea what to do with free technology if you did give it to them at their homes.

What about after-school programs? Summer Reading programs? What about families who love to read and bring their kids in once a week to check out literally hundreds of books?

If none of that appeals to you, and you have other ideas of what you'd like to see, then I guarantee you your library would love to hear from you. In the end, that's what libraries do: they serve their communities. And hey, some people don't use libraries, and that's fine, but we should still look at them in a broader context and see how, as educational and community institutions, they provide a great deal of value to our communities.

Finally, a lot of people say how great libraries were to use when they were growing up. Now that they're adults they don't use them anymore. I guarantee though that there are still a lot of kids and families out there that are getting a great deal of value out of the library. Plenty of adults, having grown up and having no children, have no personal need for schools anymore either, but no one questions their roles in the community. Libraries are just as important, because they're schools where anyone can go, at any time, for any reason. And what could possibly be cooler than that?

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lamuella 7 years, 6 months ago

"lamuella, I meant that if I had to go to the library to look it up in the newspaper I would have to wait a day."

yes, and if you had to go to a newsagent or bookstore to look it up in the newspaper, you would have to wait a day. I guess newsagents and bookstores are outdated as well.

and yes, Andrew Carnegie would be at the forefront of library evolution. I'm sure he would marvel at the Seattle Public Library, and the ImaginOn facility in Charlotte. The Seattle Public Library cost nearly 170 million. See? It's possible to give the building cost of a library without using scare-capitals.

Library evolution does not mean moving away from libraries as buildings. Library evolution means changing the function of the building. Libraries are not, as some people try to represent them, just dull and dusty places with books nobody uses. The role of the library has changed and is changing, and the role of the library building has changed and is changing. As the function of the building changes, so the structure of the building must follow. This is why new library buildings are needed.

The idea, as expressed in the original op-ed piece, that libraries can be replaced by the Internet, is laughable. The idea that the evolution of libraries should involve the abandonment of library buildings is beyond ignorant.

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Marion Lynn 7 years, 6 months ago

'Cuse ME!

lamuella, I meant that if I had to go to the library to look it up in the newspaper I would have to wait a day.

I spent a good part of my childhood in a Carnegie Library in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, riding the old yellow Superior buses back and forth.

The library was my haven and safe place.

As far as internet access in the library goes; I believe in improved access via top-notch equipment.

It ain't me that is making the shift from hard copy to the 'net and downloads.

It is the WAY THAT THINGS ARE GOING!

I LOVE libraries!

It's just that the role of libraries as we have known them is changing and we need to ride along or be left behind!

I suspect that if Andrew Carnegie were alive today, he would be at the forefront of library evolution!

Andrew was nobody's dummy!

Things have changed and libraries are changing with them so Lawrence had better get on the stick before spending SEVENTY MILLION DOLLARS!

I have tried to be VERY scear in my oppositon to the spending of SEVENTY MILLION DOLLARS so PLEASE do NOT misuderstand me!

Thanks.

Marion.

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lamuella 7 years, 6 months ago

Oh, and to address another piece of ignorance in the comments:

"I was just emailed that Robert Richardson has been found GUILTY on four of the five counts whit which he was cahrged.

If I had to look up this in the library, I would not know until tomorro."

Marion, in case you hadn't noticed, libraries have Internet access. We in fact have a great deal more Internet access than the average home, as we offer free access to huge databases of information NOT available freely on the Internet (journal archives, lexis-nexis, your beloved electronic texts and downloadable audiobooks, I could go on).

Oh, and with regard to the question of books being replaced by electronic gadgets any time soon: forget it. True, reference materials will be replaced, and this is in the main a good thing, but reading for pleasure is not something that an LCD screen will take in this particular technological generation. The reasons for this range from eyestrain, to portability, to fragility, to cost, to more intangible factors like nostalgia and feel. If computers confine their storytelling ability tosimply aping the book, then they will always be one step behind. Books have been books for a lot longer than computers have. This is not to say that computers do not have a role in fiction and storytelling. Quite the opposite, their role is too huge to be confined to simply copying the book. Electronic fiction is alive and well in computer games, online collaborative storytelling, and electronic environments like Second Life.

Incidentally, libraries also offer gaming. And there's a library in Second Life.

In summation: the kind of person who thinks that everything a library does can be replicated by the Internet is the kind of person who has absolutely no idea what the library does.

I'd say more, but Michael Stephens says it better than I ever could:

http://tametheweb.com/2006/10/ten_things_i_know_about_librar_1.html

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lamuella 7 years, 6 months ago

What an depressingly ignorant op-ed piece.

For one thing: there is a great deal of information NOT available on the Internet. Or at least, not available on the Internet without paying a lot of money for it.

For another: Even if all the information in existence was on the Internet, it wouldn't follow that all you had to do was use the Internet to get knowledge. Knowledge is a very different thing from information. That's why librarians and other information professionals are in such demand in the business world. That's why half way through typing this response I had to stop and spend half an hour helping a student with research for a high school project. Yes, before you ask, I'm a librarian, and a very busy one because of the demand for library services. This column makes the mistake of thinking of librarians as custodians of information, and thinking that now the Internet has come about, these custodians are obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth. Librarians are, and in many ways always have been, information enablers, connecting information and patron in a way that few computer systems could easily replicate.

If Mr Hirshey thinks that the shelves of the libraries are empty of patrons, he clearly hasn't been in one recently. In fact I strongly suspect he hasn't been in one in quite some time.

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Linda Endicott 7 years, 6 months ago

I suppose, with the technology available today, that someday speech could become antiquated. Is that the road that you want to go down?

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holygrailale 7 years, 6 months ago

I think it's the difference between "high touch" and "low touch".

There are always going to be some things that are going to be "high touch", no matter how "efficient" alternatives get.

=======================================

Is reading going to turn into holding up tablet PC's with a scroll dial on the side???

Perhaps.

=======================================

Will I be charged per page or access to a book???

Probably.

=======================================

There is a beauty to good typeface and font. To the well composed phrase.

I agree that "words on paper" will probably become antiquated at some point,....

just not right now.

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Linda Endicott 7 years, 6 months ago

So, if it isn't fast and easy, it's not worthwhile, Mr. Hirschey?

Reading a book or two is too difficult for you? And no, not all information is available on the internet. Though you may find lots of info on the net, it isn't all reliable. Anyone can set up a website and claim anything. It doesn't make the info correct or accurate.

The computers are always busy at the library, but not the stacks? Could this be because most people who use the internet at the library, including students, are usually there to IM people, or look at sites that their parents won't allow them to view at home?

I suppose if the world as we know it came to an end today, we suddenly had no electricity, computers were suddenly made useless, and the only resource you had for info was from books, you'd be lost.

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one_more_bob 7 years, 6 months ago

To sum up for those just coming in: marion's contribution has been pontification and carping.

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Marion Lynn 7 years, 6 months ago

Do we need more people reading?

Yes.

Do I have library cards?

Yes; to at least three libraries that I can think of.

My personal hardcopy library runs 2,000 volumes and I know cause I just moved it!

My opposition to a $70 million library stems from the fact that such a building is unnecessary, the costs do not cover stocking the library and that the nature of information flow and publishing in general is in flux right now and we are not certain how it will shake out.

Did you know that checking out books may well become a simple matter of downloading the book onto a drive or disc at the library and then taking it home to read?

Use a copy-proof(Yes the technology exists through encryption techniques) incoporporated with a self-destruct feature based on time) download and the requirements of protecting intellectual property are met. This leads to changes in the ways that copyright owners are paid.

I am suggesting that we do not need a $70 million monument to vanity and that with modern construction techniques and materials, a very fine library could be built for a fraction of the $70 million boondoggle now uder consideration.

Look at the multi-million dollar churches being built out there!

Does such a builidng do the job any better than one designed around economy, efficiency and ergonomics?

Nope but it sure looks good!

Let me give you an example of how publishing works today.

Yes, some publishers still require a typed and printed manuscript but more and more of them will accept the book on a CD-ROM.

The days of the bespectalcled typesetter at his linotype machine are dead and gone and many books already never see hardcopy except for the copies printed by readers at home from their boxes.

I have two manuscripts ready for publication and neither may ever see a printing press. This allows for lowered costs as the publishers screw authors to death anyway and if I want one published, I will just load it to a couple of CDs, get on the phone and get firm bids and push the maigc bitton on the computer!

One of the 'scrips concerns a very narrow fieled of study and is highly illustrated so convetional publishing would be very expensive. I figure (As do the publishers) that fewer than 2000 copies would be sold but that there is a market for the book due to the very hard to get info that it contains. Convential publishing would put the book in the $70-90 bracket with no increase in royalties to myself but online publishing allows a sales cost of much less with INCREASED royalties to me. What do you think that I will do?

Example:

You know how many Mercedes Benz cars are out there and how many dealers?

Well, guess what?

Mercedes Benz no longer publishes hard copy service manuals of ANY kind and hasn't for a few years!

Better get on the stick and figure it out 'cause it's changin' real fast and this is NOT the time to spend $70 million on a vanity building!

Thanks.

Marion.

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sunflower97 7 years, 6 months ago

When I was a kid, they had little bookmobiles, buses that came to my neighborhood once a week. I walked there with my mom and picked out books and had storytime. I agree with the article that we don't need a huge brick and mortar place full of old books. Instead, there could be satellite branches throughout the city. We do need more internet access for people. I would also like to see the library make better use of displays. They should organize it like a bookstore, by providing eye-catching displays that advertise good books to read. I often go to the library just to browse for something to read, and walk out frustrated because nothing appeals to me or I can't find anything without looking stuff up on the ergonomically unfriendly monitors.

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holygrailale 7 years, 6 months ago

I like to think I'm a little more computer literate than the average person. I'm also a little more capable than most at "making computers work".

I'm also on the Internet more than most (as anyone who reads these threads can attest).

That being said, at any one time, I typically have three to four books checked out from the library, as well as a couple of DVDs and/or CD's. I almost always have a fine waiting for me for returning books late ( I don't consider it a fine, I see it as a donation ) and I place myself on reserve lists for the new books that come in.

Books will never go out of style because you can control the rate at which the information is absorbed. Information obtained from reading is also retained much longer than something that is rushed almost subliminally into your brain by a rapidly changing television program or a webpage that has space limitations.

Television doesn't allow you to do that and not everyone has the ability to buy a computer and read long articles or books over a computer.

I'm too addicted to reading in bed late at night to ever give it up. Libraries are my "dealer".

Libraries rule.

=======================================

Do we need more broadband Internet access for people??

YES.

Do we need a library??

YES.

Do we need more people reading???

Most definitely, YES!!!

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Marion Lynn 7 years, 6 months ago

OK, I agree with you that libraries will in some form never be obsolete.

What I AM suggesting is that $40-75 MILLION DOLLARS IS CRAZY!

Thanks.

Marion.

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Adrienne Sanders 7 years, 6 months ago

Please. Anyone who thinks that all the information you could possibly need can be found by a simple google search has never actually done any research.

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Wilbur_Nether 7 years, 6 months ago

Again, Confrontation, "many community buildings in Lawrence" is a generality. Be a little more specific. Are you thinking of a conference room at the Holiday Inn, for example? Or are you thinking about people using the City Council Chambers? Or perhaps you're thinking of using a meeting room in KDOT's Construction & Maintenance building in North Lawrence?

Oh, and in answer to your question about whether it's illegal to read Spanish outside a library: Not yet. But give us time. With our 21st-century sensibilities, we'll get there. Just give us time.

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Becca 7 years, 6 months ago

Don't be so obtuse, Confrontation.

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Becca 7 years, 6 months ago

Confrontation, I'm talking reading a tangible book, or newspaper, or something I can hold in my hands, not just something that's stored in a computer cache somewhere.

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one_more_bob 7 years, 6 months ago

All knowledge is not on the internet. Books still serve a vital purpose.

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Confrontation 7 years, 6 months ago

Wilbur_Nether: These "classes" could easily be done in one of the many community buildings in Lawrence. Is it against the law to read spanish children's books outside of the library?

Becca-"Without the library, I'd never get to read anything." It appears that you were able to read this without the use of a library.

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Kiana Griffin 7 years, 6 months ago

Let's not forget the young children of Lawrence. They still need access to board books and picture books and parents who will read to them. A brick and mortar library allows and encourages this crucial part of a child's early development.

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Becca 7 years, 6 months ago

Well, libraries aren't totally obsolete. I actually enjoy reading a book GASP! that has pages and a cover, and I can't afford to run right out and buy one every time I get a whim to read. Which is very, very often. Without the library, I'd never get to read anything.

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Marion Lynn 7 years, 6 months ago

Speaking of the speed of the internet........................

I was just emailed that Robert Richardson has been found GUILTY on four of the five counts whit which he was cahrged.

If I had to look up this in the library, I would not know until tomorro.

Thanks.

Marion.

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my_black_lab_told_me_so 7 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, someday all there will be is "Internet libraries".

That will suck for the homeless people, though! Space to crash out in and sleep off a cheap bottle of booze hangover will be severely limited in that kind of library!!

Of course, there will be public bathrooms...even in much, much smaller Internet libraries....so the homeless will still have a place to swill their booze and do their drugs without being seen---especially in the winter time when it's cold outside!

And, hey!, let's not forget the Internet porn freaks either! If more and more libraries go all "Internet"....well, that's good news for all of them scummy middle age fat slobs who are on the "down low" and who frequent the library and view gay porn (unbeknowst to the loving clueless wife and kids at home)....and then there's the real scummy-types who try to use the public Internet so as to try and be untraceable/anonymous as they view kiddy porn!--So "all Internet libraries" will be A-Okay for those two types of losers!

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Marion Lynn 7 years, 6 months ago

Mark Hirschey is correct and would take away the "right" of the "Progressives" to wantonly spend OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY!

Bad dog!

Bad dog!

Thanks.

Marion.

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Wilbur_Nether 7 years, 6 months ago

Not an article, Confrontation. It's an op-ed piece. Your statements over-generalize and under-analyze. I'm curious which are the "other locations" which could substitute for a library's facilities?

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Confrontation 7 years, 6 months ago

Great article! It seems like the library is only being used by the homeless and those who don't know how to use a computer. It's also used for storytime stuff and meetings, which could be easily moved to other locations.

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