Comment history

Libraries are limited, obsolete

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?

October 4, 2006 at 9:30 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Libraries are limited, obsolete

"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 I guess newsagents and bookstores are outdated as well.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.

October 3, 2006 at 7:22 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Libraries are limited, obsolete

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:

October 3, 2006 at 5:07 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Libraries are limited, obsolete

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.

October 3, 2006 at 5:06 p.m. ( | suggest removal )