Comment history

Libraries are limited, obsolete

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.

October 4, 2006 at 2:29 p.m. ( | suggest removal )