2007.02.14 Relaxing at the library

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I recently ran across an article by a California writer named Will Sherman. His piece is called “Are Librarians Totally Obsolete?” Sherman provides 33 reasons why libraries and their staff members aren’t even close to being obsolete, despite predictions of their demise in the digital age.

It sounds similar to dire warnings about newspapers. Some people had predicted they would already be dead by 2007, but we’re still alive and hobbling.

For libraries, there’s a “who needs them?” train of thought. Everything is on the internet, anyway, so who needs a paper book? Sherman derails that train in 33 ways.

Reasons number 16 and 17 discuss how a library adapts to cultural changes. Sherman says libraries are not obsolete; they’re just changing.

There’s a reference that leads to an article mentioning the “social library” where people can visit and relax.

Ginny Steel, director of libraries at Washington State University, suggests comfortable furniture in a stylish atmosphere, with comforts such as food and drink. Steel believes a library can and should fulfill a social and cultural role. Bring in art exhibits and other attractions. Allow some talking.

At her campus, people come to the library to see other people. It’s the main gathering place. Greater technological sophistication doesn’t doom libraries, she says, it allows them to keep changing to meet the needs and expectations of users.

So how about a rocker-recliner for Stair Public Library? Is that too strange of a concept for you? Worried that it might invite people to come in and fall asleep?

I suppose the staff would have to establish time limits as they do with computer usage. I can see Library Director Liz Stella walking over to a sleeping patron, grabbing him by the shoulder, trying to rouse him from sleep.

“Your 30-minute nap is over, sir. Time to get up.”

What if the sleeper were deep into the dream state with his eyeballs flying around inside the sockets and legs twitching away? Would this require an etiquette of its own?

You certainly don’t want to awaken a person during REM (rapid eye movement). I’ve been chewed out many a time (generally false accusations) for awakening the Assistant Library Director (my wife) during a dream. You just don’t want to mess with some people. Let sleeping librarians lie.

I can see the entertainment value of bringing a recliner into the library. It’s sort of fun to watch people nod off, twitch and drool.

“And if you bring in a recliner,” I said to her recently, “why not add a television with earphones?”

I was trying to be preposterous with that suggestion, but Colleen mentioned that when we visited her brother in Alaska in 1994, the library she visited in Anchorage did have a TV with headphones. Nothing farfetched about that idea.

That brought to mind 1968 as a freshman at Michigan State. The library in my dorm included turntables. Remember those antique machines that spun around and played music? I brought in Steve Miller’s “Children of the Future,” checked out a set of headphones and sat down to “study.”

It was an amazing experience for a small-town boy who lacked large sums of disposable income. I didn’t even own a good record player. I think I might have been using a hand-me-down from my sister. With the poor speaker built into the box and the scratchy sound, I never knew what I was missing. I guess I should say that I never knew what the music really sounded like. It was beautiful, almost a mystical experience to hear this stuff over headphones.

And it happened in my library, where things are always changing to better serve the public.

So first comes the recliner, then an iPod recharging station in the left arm of the chair. And I want wireless and a laptop to use when I’m leaning back to relax.

I’m thinking about a sauna in the basement of Stair Public Library. I think an exercise bike with a laptop holder would work well, too.

Perhaps I’m asking for too much. Maybe they could just get a decent turntable with a good set of headphones.

    – Feb. 14, 2007 

 

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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