Monday, February 15, 2010

Libraries and Communities

Today's holiday offers a bit of thinking space, and an opportunity to comment on libraries and their roles in the community. In the case of the Otis Library, this involes a broader involvement in community affairs, and a willingness to act as an agent of change. For example, the library now works with the Norwich Community Development Corporation, Norwich city government and other stakeholders to develop an economic vision and plan for Downtown Norwich. Keep in mind that when the library decided to remain at its downtown site, one of the considerations was its ability to generate foot traffic and act as a catalyst for a renascent downtown. It is our responsibilty to help shape the municipality that Norwich residents desire. That means grappling with tough and sensitive issues of who populates the business district, what other services are present and who do they attract. The Otis Library cannot remain aloof from these matters or consciously ignore them. We must also acknowledge that finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems-empty real estate and a transient population to suggest two-requires collaboration and community engagement, the assembling of facts,planning and the foreswearing of speculation in the guise of informed opinion. The library, as a center of community activity and a public forum has an critical role to play in this process.