Libraries break down social barriers

[ad#Google Adsense-1] The professional literature that librarians read frequently refers to “the library patron,” as if one size fits all. Actually, there is no such thing as the library patron, because patrons come from all ages, all education levels, and from the entire social spectrum in this country. And where the nation as a whole might see barriers between different groups, libraries exist to break them down. Consider the generation gap and educational gap between a kindergartener and, say, a lawyer. They go to the library with different needs, but the lawyer was a kindergartener once. From school libraries to … Continue reading

In a Library Near You? Check WorldCat

Suppose you want to read a particular book, but you don’t want to buy your own copy. Or perhaps the book is out of print, and you can’t find a copy to buy. Obviously, look for it at the library. You can look at your local library’s catalog online, but it will not necessarily have what you are looking for, limited budgets and all. Without trying to identify and search other nearby libraries, how can you locate your title? A company that almost all libraries use one way or another offers a service to the public called WorldCat. In a … Continue reading

Libraries, bookstores, and organization

A new library opened in Gilbert, Arizona in 2007. Being a new library, they decided to try something new. Instead of organizing it according to the Dewey Decimal Classification, as 95% of American public libraries do, they decided to organize it like a bookstore. After all, their thinking went, people find those numbers a little cryptic, but everyone understands “gardening,” or “technology,” or “computers.” I haven’t heard how it worked out, but I think they exchanged something that works well for something that doesn’t. If I go to a bookstore just looking for a general topic, I can find something. … Continue reading

Promoting corporate libraries

I received a comment on an earlier post from a man whose wife–a hospital librarian–just got laid off, ending library services at that hospital. The hospital administration must have figured that all the doctors and staff can easily enough find information themselves. Promoting corporate libraries is one of the responsibilities of the librarian. The fate of this library reminds me of another ill-planned closing that I was involved in fixing. Back when I worked for a temp agency, one of my assignments involved going to a hot and dusty warehouse on the near north side of Chicago to sort through … Continue reading

Why do we still need libraries?

[ad name=”Google Adsense 468×60″] People have been asking that question for at least 20 years. I first became aware in the late 1980s that some college administrators regarded the library as obsolete. They thought it a good place to cut the budget. At that time, online databases had only recently become available for public use. There may have been some magazines and scholarly journals available online. “Everything’s online” was nothing more than wishful thinking on the  part of the ignorant. Since then, the amount of information available on the Internet has increased exponentially. We could once say that older materials … Continue reading