On June 18, The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) released the results of its 2011 Public Libraries in the United States Survey. While the survey is undertaken every year, the latest numbers from 2011 represent the study’s first attempt to use multivariate statistical modelling to take a deep dive into library circulation and visitation numbers. The results of that analysis verify that when communities invest in libraries, those libraries see increased use.
Every library is unique. Despite all the decades of work trying to standardize library operations, systems, collection organization, buildings, human resource management, governance, and even collection development, each library still differs from every other library. While few librarians would argue that point, it is obvious that a great deal of effort has been expended to make the practice of librarianship more homogeneous.
For patrons who live in rural areas, finding the book they want is not always easy. The local library can’t collect everything, and interlibrary loan (ILL) can be slow to deliver, if it is even available. Purchase and fast shipping from Internet booksellers like Amazon.com offer an alternative, but not everyone can afford it. Now, the California State Library (CSL) has embarked on a pilot project to redress that situation.
The Robbins Library in Arlington, MA, is a busy place. Often, all of the computers are in use, and by the summer of 2012, all were just about ready to be retired. Rather than keep to status quo, technology librarian Catherine Kiah, working with intern Brad McKenna, envisioned an expanded wireless service model made possible by three key ingredients, two of which were a risk-tolerant staff and a wireless network upgrade. The third ingredient that made this new service model possible was a relatively new technology for public libraries, a laptop vending machine.
With carefully crafted thank-you speeches and an assemblage of local VIPs, grand opening events demand a certain level of patience and decorum from the curious public who gather to watch. But, of course, things don’t always work that way. On May 1, California’s Fresno County Public Library (FCPL) held the grand opening of its new Sierra Vista branch, a 400-item book and media vending unit installed in a high-traffic area of the Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis. As County Librarian Laurel Prysiazny spoke, a young couple with a child—apparently oblivious both to the ceremonial ribbon in front of them and the presentation going on behind them—walked up to the new machine and started checking something out.
It’s not news to anyone who follows library design that the mission is expanding from one of providing room for reading and research to a more complex, community-driven model that serves as a hub for a much broader range of activities. Hospitality-influenced amenities already permeate newer libraries and renovations in the form of lounges, cafés, and multipurpose event spaces. Now, some (literally) cutting-edge libraries are taking it a step further, adding kitchens for demonstrations and patron use.
In a move that will help a leading urban library system begin defining its role in the burgeoning field of massive open online courses (MOOCs), the New York Public Library (NYPL) on April 30 announced a partnership with MOOC provider Coursera. Beginning this summer, NYPL will support a selection of Coursera’s online courses by hosting weekly in-person discussion groups at several branches in the Bronx and Manhattan through Coursera’s Learning Hubs program. Neither organization is paying the other as part of the partnership, but NYPL officials note that sharing information regarding participation in these programs will benefit both parties.
Over the last five years, LJ has reported that the number one circulating nonfiction subject has been cooking. Food represents so very much within our culture and social lives. It triggers treasured memories, extends hospitality, provides the shared experience of first dates, serves as a pretext for family and friends’ gatherings, and is praised both as a virtue and a vice for how it makes us look and feel. Yet on the event calendar at an average public library, classes or programs on this number one topic are missing. It doesn’t have to be that way.
One year after the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, the city’s libraries and cultural institutions are helping to preserve this painful moment in recent history and helping local residents reflect. Eight libraries and archives, as part of the #BostonBetter consortium, hosted events and exhibits or opened special hours in recognition of the anniversary. Others began working almost immediately after last year’s Marathon to preserve the memories and associated artifacts of the people who experienced the bombings.