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LIS 950: Libraries and community

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"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A few discussion questions

I have to say that reading Buildings, Books, and Bytes makes me sober and The Impact of the Internet makes me drowsy. There are some issues that I am aware while reading.

About BBB
1. The Youth issue & Bowling alone
Issues concerning the younger generation is really sounding the warning bell because they are soon to be our main patrons! The young people are the least supportive group - they would rather spend $20 on their own computer than contribute to the libraries. Are they the selfish generation or they just like to "bowling alone"? However, we also read about that they are most willing to pay charges for the library services. How do we reconcile the two points? In addition, the study kindly suggests that when they grow up and have children, they may become more supportive. However, it's also noted that people with computers tend to be less supportive. Obviously more and more people own computers and youth are growing up, what will happen?

2. Public culture and Public Sphere
Another issue that can be related to "Bowling Alone", as well as "Dismantling", is that the author broadens the issue to the notion of public culture. The suggestion of community-based alliances among all public institutions is very attractive. The alliance seems to be able to work to revive the community and public sphere. Are there such alliances? And what's the library's role in the alliances?

3. Library roles and public opinions
I think the greatest contribution of this study is that it provides us with the public's view about the future of the library. They are equivocal toward libraries' future because even librarians are not totally sure about the future or they failed to convey their images and messages to the patrons clearly. This study was conducted almost 10 years ago. And the ten years sees a lot of changes. How are things going now? Is the "navigator" image accepted by the public? What kind of roles are libraries playing in their communities?

4. Concerns about being marginalized & being relevant
Some library leaders feared that libraries would be marginalized and lose political support if they primarily serve the underserved people. However, the study shows that libraries get a lot of support from the disadvantage groups. What do you think of this issue? Do libraries have to gain support from middle-class taxpayer to be relevant? What's more, from the data shown in the article, I don't see that the patrons are really enthusiastic toward the libraries' role in the community. For example, providing meeting rooms for the community groups is almost the least important service for the survey participants. Do libraries have a place at the table?

5. Does anyone have any information about the public policy issues discussed in the article? Maybe we can also discuss about them.

The Impact of the Internet

1. How do you feel about the terms "market", "consumers", "products"…? Under the influence of the "Dismantling", these terms are really annoying to me. In addition, the way that they see public libraries and the Internet completely opposing to each other seems to be oversimplifying this issue. To me, the Internet is a medium, and the library is a public institution, how can they simply be compared with two competing products?

2. I believe that the study has a lot of value because the "competition" between libraries and Internet is a big concern, and it is useful to see the numbers which show that what is happening to our users and nonusers on a national level. However, does the analysis of the numbers tell us anything new? The authors claim that "evolving relationship between the Internet and the library" suggest the need for changes. Well, the librarians have been well aware of this and discussing and making efforts to change for a long time, haven't they?

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