Experts Expound

Experts Expound

With all the attention on the candidates and the state’s finances, at least
one issue has been given short shrift. That’s Proposition 81, the $600
million bond issue intended to improve California’s library system. So
what’s with libraries? How come they don’t excite much interest among the
media? Don’t people read anymore?

No opposition.
No drama.
Bad visuals.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need download the next podcast chapter of
The Da Vinci Code.

There’s no opposition to it, at least none with any money. So there’s no
media interest.

When you put a measure on the ballot to support libraries, people get
grumpy. It’s not that they don’t read. The public consumes carloads of
books. But people don’t like the fact that libraries don’t specialize in
romance novels and thrillers. Libraries have lots and lots of other books
that just take up shelf space and collect dust and prevent librarians from
stocking 300 copies of John Grisham’s latest novel. It’s disheartening to
people to see all that Steinbeck stuff or Alan Taylor’s histories. So, they
ignore libraries.

Actually they do inspire interest. The public Internet stations are full all
of the time and librarians are quietly moving into the information age with
digital materials. There are not huge financial interests on either side and
most people consider libraries a right and motherhood and apple pie.

Public libraries have made themselves obsolete by catering to the needs of
the librarians, who apparently don’t like working nights or weekends, as
opposed to the community at large. People read but public libraries are
being replaced by Borders and other book stores because they are open the
hours working parents can access them. Is your local library open when you
get home from work? Children have access to libraries at their schools or
use the Internet for their research, so they do not need to go to public
libraries.

Libraries, more than any other local-government service, are changing as a
result of technology. The bond will pass, but the onus will be on libraries
to make themselves relevant to modern society. No doubt they’ll do it, but
its going to take some time. The public is going to give libraries the
benefit of the doubt. I mean, who has had a bad experience with the library?
It’s not like the DMV.

It’s motherhood, apple pie and involves zero political mud wrestling, so why
would the media care? Maybe if there was an oil rig in front of one or if
somehow a tax hike on the wealthy/middle class/Internet were involved,
perhaps then the press would have an interest.

Many services and activities that were exclusive to libraries in the past,
like research and community-meeting space, are now available elsewhere.
Especially in affluent communities, libraries are no longer a center for
education or gathering. It might be wise to explore supporting school,
college and university libraries rather than keep pumping money into a dying
system of independent libraries.

Perhaps if Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie were heading up the library-bond
campaign it would get some media coverage. The words “that’s hot” aren’t
likely to be uttered in connection with library financing anytime soon.

The people from whom we sought opinions: The people from whom we sought
opinions: Andrew Acosta, A.G. Block, Don Wilcox, Jon Fleischman, Evan
Goldberg, Deborah Gonzalez, Dan Schnur, Jason Kinney, Tom Kise, Karen
Hanretty, Kevin Spillane, Michael Houston, Adam Mendelsohn, Matt Ross, Sam
Delson, Mike Madrid, Morgan Crinklaw, Dave Lesher, Richard Zeiger, Ralph
Simoni, Bob Hertzberg, Scott Baugh, Steve Maviglio, Tony Quinn, Peter
DeMarco, Adam Probolsky, Barbara O’Connor, Jack Pitney.


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