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Posts Tagged ‘Future of libraries’

I ran across a very interesting “slide show essay” in Slate called Borrowed Time. It briefly discusses the architecture of 8 large urban libraries located in Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Nashville, Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and New York. The author reflects on the attitudes towards the library that the architecture reveals and cautiously supposes that the library will survive; though it will change greatly in the digital age. This is a view not shared by all:

Ross Dawson, a business consultant who tracks different customs, devices, and institutions on what he calls an Extinction Timeline, predicts that libraries will disappear in 2019. He’s probably right as far as the function of the library as a civic monument, or as a public repository for books, is concerned. 

The photographs are gorgeous. I must say that the library that struck me most forcefully, and not in an entirely good way, was Salt Lake City’s. While beautiful, it is, quite plainly, a mall and appears to have been built with only the young and affluent in mind. It contains a deli, florist, cafe, NPR station, and much more. This library so intrigued me that I did some googling and learned that my eyes were not deceiving me; the building is enormous– 240,000 sq. ft!

Salt Lake City Public Library

Salt Lake City Public Library

I found some pictures of the exterior on the Web. No matter what else one can say about the library, it is certainly a beautiful building.

Salt Lake City Public Library by day

Salt Lake City Public Library

This building is impressive by day but it is even more impressive by night.

The library at night

The library at night

If you would like to learn more about the library, the building, its landscaping, the library’s services and collections (500,000 volumes at present), there is a great deal of information and more pictures on its “About Us” page.

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The New York Review of Books has published a long essay by Robert Darnton entitled, The Library in the New Age:

“Students today still respect their libraries, but reading rooms are nearly empty on some campuses. In order to entice the students back, some librarians offer them armchairs for lounging and chatting, even drinks and snacks, never mind about the crumbs. Modern or postmodern students do most of their research at computers in their rooms. To them, knowledge comes online, not in libraries. They know that libraries could never contain it all within their walls, because information is endless, extending everywhere on the Internet, and to find it one needs a search engine, not a card catalog. But this, too, may be a grand illusion—or, to put it positively, there is something to be said for both visions, the library as a citadel and the Internet as open space. We have come to the problems posed by Google Book Search.”

Well worth a read.

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