Just a few thoughts
However, I am somewhat surprised by the comments on the last two chapters. To me, these chapters make the story complete, both in structure and in content.
The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"
The Internet brought predictions of the demise of the library and, on some campuses, the marginalization of librarians themselves. But now librarians increasingly find that administrators, professors, and students see the library building as essential, a romanticized heart of the campus. At the same time, though, libraries have changed radically from the stodgy and stuffy repositories of years past. Some people wonder whether libraries have loosened up too much, and what libraries will look like in the future.
After his library opened at Penn State Harrisburg, Hal Shill was interested in finding and ranking the features that brought people in. He and Shawn C. Tonner, director of the library at Reinhardt College, in Waleska, Ga., sent survey forms to fellow library directors, asking them about various aspects of their buildings and to rate how those aspects affected library use.
The responses from about 180 institutions revealed surprising patterns. For example, Mr. Shill found that the location of a library on a campus made little difference in its popularity among students. Library size did not matter, nor did the number of study rooms in a building or the availability of wireless access. "The presence of a cybercafe -- that was a wash," he says. "It was not a statistically significant feature, but I would recommend it as a creature comfort."
More basic comforts rated highly: the quality of natural lighting, the quality of work spaces, the quality of the heating and air-conditioning system, and the overall ambiance of the building. Computer and Internet access -- such as the number of data ports, the quality of the telecommunication system, and the quality of the public-access workstations -- were also vital to the success of a building.
His report had a salient point: If a library is deserted, it's not necessarily because the Internet has taken over. It's more likely, he says, that the building itself is outdated, poorly lit, underfinanced, and depressing -- say, a 1960s relic that is less attractive than another place to study, like a friend's house or a local coffee shop. It could be that the library has not added amenities like data ports, group-study areas, and casual learning spaces to accommodate the way students work today.
In Denver, where the foreign-born population tripled between 1990 and 2000, largely because of Mexican immigrants, the public library system is considering reorganizing some of its branches to emphasize bilingual services and material.
Representative Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado, sent a public letter to Mayor John W. Hickenlooper of Denver this summer asking if the library was considering Spanish-only branches or converting to Spanish-language material at the expense of English material. Mr. Tancredo, an outspoken critic of American immigration policies, said he had been contacted by concerned librarians and patrons.
"When you have a strong cultural identity and there aren't set incentives to become American, it creates a lot of tension and divides the community," said Mr. Tancredo's spokesman, Will Adams.
Those concerns were echoed by Michael Corbin, a radio talk show host who helped organize a protest outside Denver's central library after sexually graphic content was found in some Spanish-language adult comic books, which were later removed.
Denver library officials say they are not considering Spanish-only branches in their reorganization plan but are simply trying to accommodate a city where 35 percent of residents are Hispanic.
Janet Cox, adult services supervisor at the Pueblo Library District, said: "We provide material to meet the needs of the people in the area, whether that be in English or Spanish or another language. That's important. That's what libraries do."