Don't throw out the library yet

NCTE’s Inbox lead me to a Des Moines Register article on public libraries in Iowa which lead me to a report by the Americans for Libraries Council called “Long Overdue” (ha-ha; library report humor; get it? get it?). In the nutshell, both the article and the report say that Americans still very much like libraries. This is the sort of piece that would probably fit into my 516 class, where we usually talk about the implications of “internet technologies” and the library for one class period.

Two other things seem kind of interesting to me about this stuff. First, it seems kind of at odds with the glut of articles about how stupid Americans are– especially the kids– and how all they do is watch TV and play video games and heat the house by burning books.

Second and more important perhaps, it seems from my skimming of the article and the 2 page summary of the report suggests that people very much value the “community” aspect of libraries and they value the computer and other network tools available there. For example, consider this passage from The Des Monies Register article:

“Libraries are not that quiet place anymore, they’re where it’s happening,” said [Iowa first lady Christie] Vilsack, one of 34 civic leaders interviewed for the report, which was sponsored by the Americans for Libraries Council and paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Vilsack, who has toured nearly 500 of Iowa’s 543 libraries, said Iowa libraries have added coffee shops, increased the number of computer workstations, and opened themselves for gatherings and other activities.

State librarian Mary Wegner said the report affirmed what experts already knew: Libraries are still necessary.

“What the study found is both encouraging and enlightening,” she said. “Most Americans believe that libraries are not only relevant to our time, but essential to their communities.”

Now, I guess what’s missing from my brief reading here is that people value libraries because it’s where they keep the books. But like I said, perhaps libraries are still important though in different ways.

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