Friday, September 24, 2010

'A City with a Great Library is a Great City'

By Penny Font; Tuesday, September 21, 2010 Business Report

In reality, public library parking lots are packed. Patrons usage has accelerated for the better part of a decade and is setting new recordsparticularly during the recession, according to separate studies by the American Library Association and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Nationwide, visits to public libraries last year totaled 1.4 billion, or nearly five per capita. Thats up 17% from two years ago...

An evolution

So how is it that libraries manage to remain relevant in an era when research is as close as the home computer and books and magazines can be downloaded in mere seconds?

The phenomenon is attributable to a mixture of evolution and recession.

More than a decade ago, libraries were mainly bastions of information, quiet places where the studious toiled away in the stacks and carrels. Sure, kids could check out books, but they'd better be seen and not heard.

But the ready availability of information through technology has forced libraries to adapt. Theres a new dominant model now: library as community centerless about books, more about people.

These days, those centers boast coffee houses and caf. Puppet shows. Concerts. Lectures. Art galleries. Clubs. Wi-Fi. Language courses. Computer training. Job search assistance. Meeting rooms. Tutoring. Workforce training. Tax assistance. Movies. Yoga classes. Parties with authors. Legal advice. Online databases. And you can, of course, still check out booksor download them. All of it is free.

Suzanne M. Stauffer, an assistant professor in the LSU School of Library and Information Science, says libraries have always been about more than just providing information, but they are indeed rediscovering their historic role as community centers.

There is a resurgence of this desire for community, and were all looking for a place to come together, she says. The library is neutral. It's not political; its not religious; its not commercial. Everybody can come and use it; it doesnt matter what your philosophy is. Its a place you can go and have your educational, informational and recreational needs met.

Robert Ward, an associate professor in the LSU School of Library and Information Science, calls the concept an information commons approach...

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