Two recent articles cover topics which library patrons and the reading public in general might find of interest. The first is Robert Darnton’s June 12 New York Review of Books article entitled The Library in the New Age. Darton is Director of the University Library at Harvard, and while he is principally concerned with the relevance of research libraries in the current information age, (he argues convincingly that every age is an age of information) some of his key points are equally applicable to public libraries. The whole article is well worth reading. His case for the instability of information is particularly good, with a wonderful example based on contemporary reports of
For those who value public libraries, there are some particularly resonant comments at the end of the article. I am especially fond of the following passages: “[D] on’t think of it [the library] as a warehouse or museum. While dispensing books most research libraries operate a nerve centers for transmitting electronic impulses…As a citadel of learning and as a platform for adventure on the Internet, the research library still deserves to stand at the center of the campus, preserving the past and accumulating energy for the future.” I think these sentiments are equally applicable to public libraries. While dispensing books and other media, the Otis library is also a forum, and a conduit for information in digital and printed formats. It is a source for original research, a classroom, and a community center. This is as it should be. A key challenge for Otis and other libraries now and in the future will be maintaining their importance to the communities they serve. That requires adaptability to changing needs. Otis Library takes that challenge seriously, and strives to be a good example of what Darnton calls a traditional service moving with the times.