Saturday, November 04, 2006

Discussion Topics for 11/6

Long Overdue: A fresh look at public and leadership attitudes about libraries in the 21st century

Is the library's top rating as a public service representative of the service's success or does it represent a lower standard held for a service perceived to be less vital? People claim to value libraries but they do not receive much support; they are not seen as vital.

Should libraries be involved in implementing standards, rules and measures for the internet, since it is perceived as a service they are obligated to supply or are they doing enough by simply offering it as a free resource to the general public?

What explains libraries vulnerablity to budget cuts even in the so-called "information age?"

The Public Agenda study lists four services that respondents indicated they would appreciate, but are rarely offered. Those services are teen activities, adult literacy development, government information services and public computer access. All four are undoubtedly worthy of time and money but resources are typically limited. Of the four which service or services should get priority and why?

What are some possible reasons why people who rarely use libraries still see them (or at least answer that they still see them) as important to their communities?

In Madison only the Central Branch library is open on Sundays, and this branch is not even open on Sundays in the summer. In light of our class discussion and the Public Agenda article what do you think about this?

Looking at the graph on page 33 "Top Community Priorities" how can you imagine the public library best filling these needs? Have you heard of innovative programs that correspond to these priorities?

Differences Between Real and Virtual Libraries by Thomas Mann

Is it in the interest of knowledge for the internet to be organized as a librart or does this restrict it as a conduit to free publication?

Could a virtual library that adheres to all of Mann's guidelines perform to the same level as the libraries it mimics?

Mann makes the point in his article that computer cataloging is inefficient and unnweildy compared to traditional methods available through so-called "real" libraries. In the eight years since this article was written computer cataloging has grown by leaps and bounds and search technology has been greatly redefined. Does Mann's criticism hold true?

Mann believes that readers will always feel more comfortable reading books that are published in a traditional paper format (that is, if readers are reading as opposed to searching for information). Do you think he is right?

Remember Kevin Kelly's article "Scan this Book!"? Who do you think makes better arguments, Mann or Kelly? Who do you think will end up being right about the future of books? Who do you hope will be right and why?

On page 134 Mann states that copyrights are the solution to the problems faces by libraries in reagrds to the internet; looking at things like Google's book scanning project does it still seem like copyrights hold any power over controlling information or are they simply a roadbump in the road to information?

According to Mann there will always be some sort of restraint on access to information, based on what, who and where restrictions. Is there a way to eliminate all these restrictions and if not which would be the msot inclusive restriction to have in place?


At 12:52 PM, Blogger Julia said...

In regards to the paper versus digital copies, and which is preferred, I think it's a matter of suitability. For sitting down and reading, nothing beats a paper copy. But those delightful PDFs and webpages are searchable! There's tradeoffs for using one and not the other, and each individual user is going to have to make the choice based on preferences and intended use. In that sense, I don't think the physical copy is ever going to go completely away (even if it's a printout of the electronic form).

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Frances said...

The question about why people consider libraries valuable even when they don't use them is an interesting one. Just the idea of a library is appealing, isn't it? A place where information is free and accessible, a quiet place to read and study, a place that isn't full of advertisements or hidden restrictions. I also think that to some degree, people want libraries for other people-- for their children or grandchildren, or for people in the community who are less well off. Is that too selfless? I suppose people also want them "just in case" for themselves, too. A follow-up poll would be very interesting. Are people even able to articulate the reasons?

At 8:17 PM, Blogger mjbrunelle said...

Re: The Difference Between Real and Virtual Libraries, Question # 2:

Virtual libraries could be held to the same standards as real libraries if the same screening criteria used in real libraries were applied to materials in virtual libraries.

At 9:16 PM, Blogger Becky Jean said...

In response to the Sunday hours of the Madison Public Libraries, I think this is a great first step. Hours that are accessible to the public seem to be something that libraries are lacking according to the surveys. Sunday is the day most people have off from work. Thus it seems like this might be the time to have libraries open. Especially when you consider that those who need the library most are often blue collar workers who only have Sundays available to visit library. I realize that this involves more money and staff, but it seems that this might be worth it.

I also think that services like adult literacy and gov docs are services that may be extended for less money than first thought. Some communities actually ofter adult literacy programs often through a volunteer service. I think if these services were publicized and promoted at the library and given space to function once a week, it could really help.

At 5:33 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

Regarding paper v. digital. I don't think this is a question of using one over the other universally. I think it is a question of which is most convenient or useful for the task at hand. There are times when a light weight physical copy of the text will be preferred over the digital version and vice versa. I don't think either type of textual representation will be disappearing any time soon.

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Cory said...

What explains libraries vulnerablity to budget cuts even in the so-called "information age?" I think because there is so much more information that a person can find on their own through Google or wherever, people think the library isn't as valuable because they view like the middle man. If they can cut the middle man out and get the info themselves, then why bother with the library. That would only apply in situations where you are just looking for information. But even if you are trying to locate a book, there are enough cheap book buying places on the internet or in local used book stores that in many cases cost isn't an issue with finding a book, especially with next day shipping.

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Amy said...

In response to the services that respondents would appreciate in libraries but are rarely offered I think that adult literacy and teen services should be focused on. It seems that public computer access is already a priority for most libraries. I would hope that government agencies would consider providing funding to local libraries if they are going to rely on them as access points to their information.
Adult literacy should be focused on because it goes hand in hand with the basic principles of the public library system, free access to reading materials for all. If adults are unable to read, they are unable to take advantages of services offered by public libraries.

Teen services and adult literacy are services that are within the scope of most public libraries and that are vital parts of successful communities. While it may not be readily apparent, some libraries are working on teen outreach. This is a particularly hard cohort to target, as teens are very susceptible to outside influences and peer pressure. I head an interview on NPR with an author of YA fiction. She mentioned one young woman who was thrilled to download books onto her I-pod so her peers wouldn't tease her for reading. If this is the state of the current adolescent user population, so major steps need to be taken to get them into public libraries.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger lkbronstad said...

Regarding Long Overdue--I got the feeling from this study that even if people and communities value libraries, if they do not use them, warm fuzzy feelings for libraries start not to matter. I do think that that might be the reason they are rated higher than services the respondents might use--schools, police, "your local news media". If the community does not put the library to use, then, like the study says (with its canary metaphor) they really are being devalued. I hate that the answer is to start adopting a big bookstore model, and I hate what that respondent said about libraries being valuable because not everyone has access to a Borders. But is there another option?

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Cynthia said...

As others have already commented - I think both physical and digital forms of books/documents/etc. have their do both virtual and "real" libraries. But in my opinion, Kelly's arguments in "Scan this Book!" were much more appealing (and convincing) than Mann's. The tone of Mann's writing felt rather defensive and emotional. It seemed as though he was almost just whining, "but, but books are pretty!" The fact that Mann effectively shut down any debate about copyright and its place in information management was also a turn off.

In short, Kelly's arguments struck me as much more clear-headed and and forward thinking. I'm not sure what will come to pass though, most likely a hybrid between these two visions.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Eric Bartell said...

I would like to say something about libraries vulnerability to budget cuts . Part of the problem is that many (most?) publicly funded institutions feel that they are important, and that they are underfunded. Just go to most school districts, I suspect. So it is important to realize that those in charge of budgets might have to be deciding between cutting one good thing in the interest of another good thing. Personally, when it comes to educational purposes, I would give priority to the schools over the libraries. That does not mean cut the funding of libraries, or that they do not do good work in the field of education. It's just that the schools should get "first dibs." What should be done then?

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Eric Bartell said...

re: "Mann believes that readers will always feel more comfortable reading books that are published in a traditional paper format (that is, if readers are reading as opposed to searching for information). Do you think he is right?"

I think in general this is true, especially for "substantial readings." However, that does not mean sometime in the future we won't have the technology to have a legitimate "computer book" that has the benefits both of a computer and the personal book as we know it today.


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