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The Rise and Fall of Libraries: Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield's Public Library

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Reeling over budget cuts, a dip in the city's population and shifting reading habits, the director of the Berkshire Athenaeum  pondered how to continue its institution relevant. He said he planned to investigate circulating audio cassettes and, perhaps, compact discs. It was 1985, and the Pittsfield athenaeum had watched circulation of library materials decline 28 percent over the previous five years.

Lack of Libraries Could Lead to a Digital Underclass

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Two recent articles appearing on ZDNET (here and here), opened the door for an important discussion about the effects of shutting down libraries due to a lack of funding to keep them open, especially in light of efforts to make them havens for digital interaction.

Historically, libraries have served as community cornerstones because of the wealth of resources they provide.  Even in the digital age, they provide very necessary assistance to many people, particularly those who cannot or have not readily adopted broadband – high speed Internet – in their homes.

National Bookmobile Day

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What drives through your neighborhood bringing treats that are enjoyed by kids of all ages?  It’s not the ice cream truck.  It’s the bookmobile.  National Bookmobile Day will be celebrated Wednesday April 13, 2011.  This ALA coordinated event celebrates bookmobiles and all types of mobile library services. Bookmobiles are still going strong, and they have enjoyed a long history.

Free town libraries were created in the early years in the 19th century in the United States to provide learning and recreational reading to everyone. Bookmobiles were an early addition to the offerings of these free libraries. No better method has ever been devised for reaching people with library services. Bookmobiles go to the people who can’t easily come to the library.

Outcomes of Teen Tech Week

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Taking a look across the country at what happened during Teen Tech Week March 6-12, 2011, our first stop takes us to a suburb outside of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois.

Teen Tech week was extra special this year at the Gail Borden Public Library, with the opening of their new Teen Space just two months prior. Named Studio 270 for the library's address, the new Teen Space was developed and designed with feedback from the young adult patrons themselves.

Public Libraries: The Soul of a Civilization

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What defines a city? Some suggest the mundane (the state of electrical wiring for utilities and phone lines). Others point to basic needs like the quality of affordable housing and public facilities. But the heart of every city is defined by two things: the state of its public spaces, and the quality and condition of its public libraries. Indeed, a public library defines not only the city in which it sits, but the state of the society that created it.

Great cities in history were known for their libraries: the ancient cities of Ebla (probably the oldest known, around 2500 BCE) and Ugarit in Syria, Nineveh in Iraq, Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople and Takshashila in India all had vast libraries. Alexandria's was said to be one of the largest. The ancient university of Nalanda, now sought to be revived, and said to be one of the first great universities in known history, had a magnificent library.

ALA President Loriene Roy releases statement on PEW survey on library use

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Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association (ALA) released the following statement regarding the release of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the University of Illinois’ "Information Searches That Solve Problems: How People Use the Internet, Government Agencies, and Libraries When They Need Help" survey. The survey was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal funding for U.S. museums and libraries.

"The Pew survey supports our assertion that libraries are flourishing in the age of the Internet. According to the ALA’s 2007 State of America’s Libraries, library use is up nationwide among all types of library users, continuing a decade-long trend. Almost 1.8 billion visitors checked out more than 2 billion items last year.

Serving the Vision Impaired

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Recently, I visited the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (http://www.wtbbl.org/) in Seattle, where the books talk.

Library director Gloria Leonard filled me in on the history of this special library. It opened around 1906 at the Seattle Public Library, then located on Fourth Avenue. As the story goes, a library employee wanted to supply Braille materials to the entire state, and by 1907 about a hundred Braille-embossed books were circulating by mail.

Then, in 1931, the Pratt-Smoot Act established the National Library Service (NLS) within the U.S. Library of Congress, and nineteen libraries across the country – including Seattle Public – signed up to distribute Braille materials. Today, there are fifty-seven regional libraries across the United States.

New Orleans Public Library Nearly Three Years After Hurricane Katrina

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The severity of Hurricane Katrina’s impact reverberated throughout the city of New Orleans. Submerged property and toppled trees and automobiles are a testament to its ferocity. Very few buildings or homes were spared its devastation and one institution, the once vibrant New Orleans Public Library System (NOPL), underwent the most horrid destruction. The twelve-branch system experienced damage to all of its buildings, some of them, particularly the Martin Luther King Branch in the Lower Ninth Ward and the Smith Regional Branch in the Lakefront area, sustained overwhelming torrents that completely destroyed the entrails of the buildings. Others suffered water and mold damage and a few were salvageable, but nothing really emerged physically intact.

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