Friday, September 17, 2010

Why didn't they give the money to the library?

Don't be silly.


Paul Mitchell said...

As a huge lover of libraries, but as a small government conservative, I have a debate daily about the apparent contradiction of those two. There simply has to be some answer to that conundrum.

Not only that, I see the writing on the wall of the future death of the actual physical BOOK because of the electronic devices on the market now.

There are certainly some big changes that have happened in my lifetime and not all of them good, either.

miriam sawyer said...

The cost of running a library is a very small part of any governing body's budget, unlike the exorbitant amount they give to schools.

The benefit of the library is that you can find things there that you didn't know you were looking for. My husband came from a working class family. He went to the library and read books about Greek mythology which you are never going to find a a Kindle.

These electronic aids are cutting down people's choices. Soon everybody in the nation will be reading The DaVinci code, or its equivalent.

Considering the low quality of public education, providing an alternate venue where people can educate themselves--but don't have to, it's not compulsory--makes sense in every possible way.

The trouble is, library users are not unionized, therefore they are powerless. There is no-one to speak for them.

Paul Mitchell said...

Miriam, you and I certainly agree on all of your comment, but still I keep thinking about Carnegie and his endowments that created the very idea of the public library. With our governments becoming more and more politicized, I think that getting less of THAT ideology involved in our library system is probably a good idea.

I keep thinking that there simply must be a free market way to make libraries even better.

I laughed at the DaVinci Code, too.

miriam sawyer said...

Paul: Some library history: Carnegie did not invent American public libraries, Benjamin Franklin did.

Carnegie was a poor kid from Scotland. A well-to-do man let him use his library, and he educated himself. he wanted to extend this educational resource to other poor children.

Andrew Carnegie did not just place libraries anywhere. In order to get a Carnegie library, a town had to pledge to provide ongoing support for the institution. In New Jersey, this support came from a referendum passed by the municipality funding the library.

Is there any other venue preserving the great literature of the past? I can't think of any.

Paul Mitchell said...

Sorry, maybe you misunderstood my meaning with "public." Carnegie's libraries were open stacks, unlike the majority of libraries at the time. I cannot fathom what libraries would be for me without the ability to freely move about and have that impulse to grab a book that I was not there to get.

As far as the funding, Carnegie's original intent was for the communities that got the grant money would put up ten to twenty percent. That idea is no longer even considered.

The problem that I have with the way that things are run now is that government has gone beyond helpful with those services. The library closest to my home in Lexington, KY is a beautiful building with many books, a big video section, music, and art exhibits, encompassing over 150,000 square feet.

The last time I was there, there were four of us in the building. My girlfriend, ONE worker, one other patron, and me. That library is clearly not a government service that anyone wants, huh?

miriam sawyer said...

Carnegie wanted the towns to pledge to pay to support the libraries; thus the referendum.

The emptiness of your library is a reflection on American cultural life and not on the institution.

Where else could you find the world's literature, organized in a methodical way? Bookstores are hit and miss; they don't keep out of print books. And you have to buy the books.

Perhaps your library would be busier after school lets out or on weekends.

Paul Mitchell said...

It was a Saturday. No kidding.

And how in the world do you find a book in a library that doesn't follow the Dewey Decimal System? I had read some stuff with the idea that it was going away, but it is gone here entirely.

Like I said, I love libraries, I have done extensive research on the building type. I did my thesis and final project in architecture school on libraries and tried to design a more compact facility.

I just do not see them as being around too much longer, unless it is as some sort of museum to show how we used to get our information. Maybe it will be another twenty years, but I think that I shall live to see its utter demise.

miriam sawyer said...

Most public libraries follow the Dewey Decimal System. College libraries use the Library of Congress system. They are philosophically different but are both systematic methods of organizing material.

The fact that no-one uses libraries reflects on the users, not the libraries. Someone has to keep the spark of knowledge alive.

I blame our wretched educational system. We seem to be on the verge of a new Dark Age. The schools are defrauding the public, likewise the colleges. Meanwhile, libraries are depending on DVDs--an almost obsolete form-- to keep circulation going.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I agree with you - the trend is obvious; since more material is available in digitized form, the library as physical space where information is dispensed is going to disappear.
When I was working on one of my Justice projects, Brooklyn Criminal Courthouse, during Master Planning phase we have interviewed various agencies in existing building, incl. the Legal Library. The librarians said it became almost-always-empty archive of paper-copy; lawyers come there to have 5 min to themselves - in short, they use it as a lounge. When they need up-to-date professional information they access it online, from digitized publications.

Glad to see a fellow architect/Fountainhead fan who is also Miriam's reader. Do you mind if I add your blog to my roll?


Paul Mitchell said...

I can certainly see the advantage of being able to instantaneously search keywords in digital format. I do it all the time. I still want the library...

And add away, Tat. I rarely post architecture stuff at my blog, though.

Try my Tumblr out, instead. 100% architecture, all the time.

Tat said...

I looked -nope, Paul, sorry, not interested in pretty pictures (those I can find in plenty of places); I like me some content.

Oh well.

Paul Mitchell said...

Tat, click the image to go to the article.

Anonymous said...

Paul, by content I mean -your own thoughts; if I wanted to read articles gathers by arch-daily, I'd subscribed to them directly. Actually, I read a number of arch.publications -BLDG BLOG, f.i., is on my roll (although I despise their politics).

I think you misunderstood me.

Well, OK.