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Posts Tagged ‘public librarianship’

The Public Library as an Incubator for the Arts

Posted by Editor on January 17, 2012

January 17, 2012 | 9:58 AM | By 

Arguably, those who believe a public library is simply a repository of print books haven’t been to a public library lately. Here at MindShift, we’ve been covering the ways in which the library is evolving to change the demands of digital technologies and of its patrons: libraries are becoming learning labsinnovation centers, and makerspaces.

Of course, the public library has always been a community center as much as a place to go to check out books to read, so the new extensions of the library’s service may not be so far afield from the institution’s mission to provide access to information. Even so, much of the emphasis has been on literacy — reading and writing, digital and analog — and not on other forms of creativity.

But three graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies have launched a project that points to another important way in which libraries play a key role in their communities. The Library as Incubator Project highlights some of the ways in which libraries and local artists can work together.

I spoke with Erinn Batykefer, Laura Damon-Moore, and Christina Endres about the project.

Q. What was the inspiration for the Library as Incubator Project? Read the rest of this entry »


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A Country Without Libraries

Posted by Editor on May 18, 2011

Charles Simic

Photo by Robert DawsonHartland Four Corners, Vermont, 1994. Robert Dawson’s photos of libraries are currently on view in the exhibition Public Library: An American Commons at the San Francisco Public Library.

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.
—Groucho Marx

All across the United States, large and small cities are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operations. Detroit, I read a few days ago, may close all of its branches and Denver half of its own: decisions that will undoubtedly put hundreds of its employees out of work. When you count the families all over this country who don’t have computers or can’t afford Internet connections and rely on the ones in libraries to look for jobs, the consequences will be even more dire. People everywhere are unhappy about these closings, and so are mayors making the hard decisions. But with roads and streets left in disrepair, teachers, policemen and firemen being laid off, and politicians in both parties pledging never to raise taxes, no matter what happens to our quality of life, the outlook is bleak.“The greatest nation on earth,” as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend.

I don’t know of anything more disheartening than the sight of a shut down library. No matter how modest its building or its holdings, in many parts of this country a municipal library is often the only place where books in large number on every imaginable subject can be found, where both grownups and children are welcome to sit and read in peace, free of whatever distractions and aggravations await them outside. Like many other Americans of my generation, I owe much of my knowledge to thousands of books I withdrew from public libraries over a lifetime. I remember the sense of awe I felt as a teenager when I realized I could roam among the shelves, take down any book I wanted, examine it at my leisure at one of the library tables, and if it struck my fancy, bring it home. Not just some thriller or serious novel, but also big art books and recordings of everything from jazz to operas and symphonies.

In Oak Park, Illinois, when I was in high school, I went to the library two or three times a week, though in my classes I was a middling student. Even in wintertime, I’d walk the dozen blocks to the library, often in rain or snow, carrying a load of books and records to return, trembling with excitement and anticipation at all the tantalizing books that awaited me there. The kindness of the librarians, who, of course, all knew me well, was also an inducement. They were happy to see me read so many books, though I’m sure they must have wondered in private about my vast and mystifying range of interests.

I’d check out at the same time, for instance, a learned book about North American insects and bugs, a Louis-Ferdinand Céline novel, the poems of Hart Crane, an anthology of American short stories, a book about astronomy and recordings by Bix Beiderbecke and Sidney Bechet. I still can’t get over the generosity of the taxpayers of Oak Park. It’s not that I started out life being interested in everything; it was spending time in my local, extraordinarily well-stacked public library that made me so. Read the rest of this entry »

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The future of the library

Posted by Editor on May 16, 2011


What is a public library for?

First, how we got here:

Before Gutenberg, a book cost about as much as a small house. As a result, only kings and bishops could afford to own a book of their own.

This naturally led to the creation of shared books, of libraries where scholars (everyone else was too busy not starving) could come to read books that they didn’t have to own. The library as warehouse for books worth sharing.

Only after that did we invent the librarian.

The librarian isn’t a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user.

After Gutenberg, books  got a lot cheaper. More individuals built their own collections. At the same time, though, the number of titles exploded, and the demand for libraries did as well. We definitely needed a warehouse to store all this bounty, and more than ever we needed a librarian to help us find what we needed. The library is a house for the librarian.

Industrialists (particularly Andrew Carnegie) funded the modern American library. The idea was that in a pre-electronic media age, the working man needed to be both entertained and slightly educated. Work all day and become a more civilized member of society by reading at night. Read the rest of this entry »

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Architectural Record Honors Peoria PL!

Posted by Editor on March 29, 2011

Richärd + Bauer, Peoria, Arizona

By Jenna M. McKnight


Photo © Bill Timmerman

In the political realm, Phoenix generally toes the conservative line. Fortunately, when it comes to civic architecture, the city takes a more progressive stance. A case in point: In 1995, residents celebrated the opening of Will Bruder’s colossal Burton Barr Central Library, which quickly earned icon status in the Valley of the Sun. In the following years, as Phoenix expanded at breakneck speed, prominent Southwest architects were tapped to design a string of branch libraries, many of which have appeared in Architectural Record.

The Sunrise Mountain Library, conceived by the local firm Richärd + Bauer and finished in 2009, marks yet another example of the city’s willingness to embrace singular architecture. Constructed for $7.7 million, the 22,000-square-foot building rises from a partly developed swath of land in Peoria, a municipality in northwestern Phoenix. Surrounded by rows of bland, beige homes, the library adds some much-needed pep to a suburban neighborhood. Read the rest of this entry »

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From Michael Stephens’ Tame the Web

Posted by Editor on February 15, 2011

Every semester in LIS768: Participatory Service & Emerging Technologies, one option for the Context Book Report assignment is to produce a video or media project. Here are this semester’s submissions.



Latino Link:

Setting the Table:

Born Digital:

Legendary Brands:

Michael’s Note: I struggled with a WP glitch to embed so please just follow the links. I appreciate the work and thought these students put into their reports.

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California Governor Proposes Eliminating All State Funding for Libraries

Posted by Editor on January 12, 2011

January 12, 2011 – 2:27pm — ScrewyDecimal

“California Governor Jerry Brown released a proposed budget for FY11/12 on Monday that would eliminate all state funding for libraries.

Brown’s shock-and-awe, $84.6 billion budget, which still must work its way through the state legislature, would cut state spending by $12.5 billion and include a ‘vast and historic’ restructuring of government operations.”

Full article here

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From the AL: The Professional in “Information Professional”

Posted by Editor on September 9, 2010

September 9th, 2010,

Since we’re discussing academic and public libraries this week, let’s compare them in another way. (As for you “special” librarians, I’ll ignore you like the rest of the profession does!)

It’s been the contention of many that public libraries are there to give people what they want, provided of course they want multiple copies of bestselling novels, scratched DVDs, and waiting in line to use slow computers with dated software.

Is there anything that librarians in public libraries can tell people they need? Or better, is there anything they can tell people they shouldn’t want, and thus won’t be supplied?

In academic libraries, that’s what librarians do all the time. Academic librarians buy certain kinds of books and journals because they’re better than other ones, and then they try to teach students to evaluate the information they find so that they can also pick better information. Read the rest of this entry »

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Resetting “Normal” — in “TETs*”

Posted by Editor on March 22, 2010

I  was  fortunate to attend a meeting of the Maricopa Library Council last week. All in attendance were at the beautiful Tempe Public Library representing a variety of libraries and library types in the  valley including public and  academic libraries. I was  very impressed with the  creativity their accounts of managing libraries in difficult times and when I saw this column by Roy Tennant in LJ, I thought of them.

Resetting “Normal”

March 19, 2010

I’ve been thinking lately about the “*tough economic times” (pronounced as “T-E-Ts” around our office) and their impact on libraries. Many public libraries are having their budgets slashed, being forced to close branches, and in some extreme cases being forced to close altogether. But those are only the most obvious and immediate effects, and similar troubles are visiting all other types of libraries. In addition, we are beset by many other organizations and companies doing things that previously were our sole purview.

These factors are forcing a new “normal” for libraries the world over, although more acutely in some areas than others. These are changes that will be with us for many years to come, and I would suggest that some changes are permanent. Now my crystal ball happens to be in the shop being repaired, so whatever predictions I make here are suspect. Actually, all of my predictions are suspect, but I digress.

  • We will have fewer staff. People are usually the single biggest part of any library budget, and are often the only budget item large enough to absorb major cutbacks. We are unfortunately experiencing this right now.
  • The staff we have will be focused on essential activities. What’s essential? What isn’t? There’s the rub. What librarians think is essential may not be congruent with what others think is essential.As we are increasingly inspected by those who provide our support, we will find it necessary to pay attention to what our users and funders think is essential.
  • Technology will continue to be used to create additional efficiencies. We have gained a tremendous number of internal efficiencies through automation, although most of those efficiencies were simply plowed back into otehr services (e.g., the decline of many cataloging departments often coincided with the rise of systems departments). However, I believe a key difference this time is that the efficiencies will not be plowed back into the organization, they will be necessary to deal with decreased levels of support.
  • Services and open hours will be cut. This is, of course, already happening. With fewer staff it becomes dificult to stay open as many hours as you had before.
  • Locations will be consolidated. Again, in many locales this is already happening.
  • The fiscal pressures that libraries are under will transform the library systems marketplace. The library systems marketplace has been a zero-sum game for quite some time.The only way for a vendor to grow was to buy or steal customers from its competitors. Now we are entering a new phase, where not only is there no new money to be had, it will shrink. Pressures on vendors to cut prices will be difficult to ignore. They will likely include libraries going to open source systems and paying a vendor only for support as well as new offerings that exert downward price pressure on the market.

These are just a few of the forces that I think will be forcing libraries to a new “normal”. Not that this is necessarily bad, it largely depends on how we respond. If we find ways to refocus our efforts on where we really add value, and on adding value that our users and funders actually value instead of what we think they should, then this could presage a new golden age for libraries. As a whole, I tend to be an optimist, but the task before us gives me pause. It will not be easy, nor obvious what needs to be done. But it has already begun and the sooner we take control over it, and guide our operations down to the new normal with as much of our added value instact as we can mange, the more likely it will be that we will find the new normal to acceptable.
Posted by Roy Tennant on March 19, 2010 | Comments (1)

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Name game — A librarian should run the library (from Tulsa, OK)

Posted by Editor on November 25, 2009

By World’s Editorial Writers  Published: 11/23/2009  2:28 AM  Last Modified: 11/23/2009  9:20 AM

The Tulsa City-County Library System continues to hunt for a new chief executive officer.Former CEO Linda Saferite announced Aug. 4 that she would be on extended medical leave until she retires in March.


The library board met last week to talk about what its looking for in a new library boss, who will be earning $130,000 to $150,000 a year.

The responsibilities include fundraising, strategic direction and policies, long-range planning and community relations.

Those are important jobs, and we don’t begrudge the planned salary, but the title CEO bothers us.

There’s a name for the chief executive officer of a library — head librarian.

Titles are important. They reflect assumptions and duties to the public.

Chief executive officer is a good title for the bosses of business and industry.

Library bosses are different. The the top person might be the chief, and might be an executive, but the public needs to know the person running the libraries as a librarian. It reflects the traditional elements of what the institution is about.

Interestingly, state law requires that Tulsa’s library director have at least a master’s degree in library science. Not a master’s degree in business administration. There’s a reason for that.

If one of the new CEO’s jobs is indeed community relations, we suggest one of that person’s first actions be a decision to re-brand the job. We don’t want a corporate bigwig running our libraries. We want

a librarian….read entire article here:

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Library Leader in Era of Change to Step Down

Posted by Editor on November 19, 2009

By PATRICIA COHEN   Published: November 18, 2009

After 16 years at the helm of one of the world’s largest library systems, Paul LeClerc announced on Wednesday that he would step down as president of the New York Public Library in the summer of 2011 to give the institution plenty of time to search for a replacement.

Mr. LeClerc, 68, a scholar of French literature and the former president of Hunter College, has presided over the sprawling library system during a revolutionary period of change, as the world has shifted to the digital era. When he first came to the position in December 1993, the library did not even have a Web site.

The advent of search engines like Google and Yahoo rivals “the impact of Gutenberg,” the developer of the first printing press, Mr. LeClerc said this week as he sat in his office opposite a portrait of Benjamin Franklin at the library’s headquarters, at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.

The combination of a vast research collection — more than 50 million items and the world’s largest online catalog — and an extensive network of lending libraries throughout the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island makes the New York system unique, Mr. LeClerc said. (Queens and Brooklyn have separate library systems.) “Historically it’s a staggering level of ambition and generosity that no other library system in the world has,” he said.

Although previous presidents have been scholars, Catherine Marron, chairwoman of the library’s board, said that the new leader could come from any number of fields — academics, technology, the nonprofit sector. “What Paul has represented is intellectual leadership,” she said, which is particularly important to the library to maintain its worldwide reputation for scholarship and to provide vision. She and Vice Chairman Joshua L. Steiner will lead a search committee and hire a firm to help them find a successor. Mr. LeClerc made clear that he intended to steer clear of the entire process.

In the current economic crisis the library has seen greater use of its resources than ever, at the same time its financial resources have been strained. Visits to branches increased by 11 percent, to 18 million, in the past year, while Internet visits hit 26 million. In the spring Job Search Central opened at the Science, Industry and Business Library at Madison Avenue and 34th Street; a specialist in job searches is stationed at every branch to help visitors write résumés and look for jobs.

“The financial situation has been tough on everybody,” Ms. Marron said, adding that she nonetheless felt the library was in “solid financial shape.” The library’s annual budget of $254 million is comprised of money from its endowment, contributions from the city, private donations and earned income.

During Mr. LeClerc’s tenure — longer than any of his predecessors’ — the library started digitizing its collection, and entered partnerships with companies like Google and Apple to expand access to materials. It also provided free wireless and undertook $500 million in capital projects. The redesigned Web site,, using free open-source software will be available in January. The library has also acquired a number of archival collections from Jerome Robbins, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Malcolm X and The New York Times. The Voltaire collection, which is Mr. LeClerc’s specialty and is now on display, has also grown.

Mr. LeClerc said his basic approach boiled down to a simple formula: “find out what people want and give it to them.” Libraries are now open for longer hours than at any time in its history, he added.

Although long-term questions about print versus digital are unresolved, Mr. LeClerc is confident that for the foreseeable future both print and digital resources will be in demand. Libraries have had the same function for 5,000 years, Mr. LeClerc explained, as “storehouses of exceptionally important written documents.” The New York Public Library’s fundamental responsibility to acquire materials, keep them and let people look at them, he said, remains the same.

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