March 8, 2008

Something’s Missing

I went to my local public library today, a place I hadn't been for probably seven years. That sounds a little strange, maybe, but it makes sense. In highschool I would generally just use the school library, and now in university -- well, if you can't find it in the university catalogue, you'll have a hard time finding it anywhere. And so I haven't been to the community library in a long, long time.

I was pretty excited to go today. Since I've been gone, the library has undergone a massive renovation. It's quite incredible, really; the place is almost unrecognizable. For the most part, I think, it's also for the better. The library's previous look was very dark and dim. Now everywhere is airy and full of light (two full walls are windows). The layout is good, too: more workspace, lots of little nooks with chairs for reading, better computers, well-spaced aisles, etc.

It's nice. It's really nice.

It's strange, too, not just in terms of its difference from the old format (whence the children's area I remember?). It has been a couple of years, and there is the possibility that I'm mis-remembering, but it seems to me that there are also distinctly fewer books than there used to be. The science fiction section seems to have been gutted. The shelves aren't full the way they used to be. And the more workspaces and wider aisles seem to mean that there are also fewer shelves.

Fewer shelves . . . fewer books . . . do you think that they've maybe missed the point of being a library? Not to knock the reno too much, because the building is much nicer than it used to be. But where have the books gone?

7 comments:

Mrs. Micah said...

I like it when libraries are open...but I'm not sure how well I'd do without books. That could be a problem. ;)

shereadsbooks said...

Yeah... it's strange. It's not as if there are no books at all -- but there are definitely fewer. It's pretty disconcerting.

TheElementary said...

You didn't mention but I wonder if, in your library, there are more DVDs and CDs available now taking the book space or is it just more space in general?
I love libraries but I just found out my particular one will be closed on Saturdays during the Summer.
Closed. On the one day that people just might make time to go. When I was growing up Saturday was our library day and kids had safe fun for hours in there. So again, I fear they missed the point. It feels sometimes as though libraries are slowly phasing themselves out. Am I imagining things?
Great post.

shereadsbooks said...

Mmm, there are definitely more DVDs and CDs available than there would have been, say, a decade ago. But I don't think they're taking up much in the way of space that would otherwise be dedicated to books. Most of the book shelves are half-empty, and the way that they're spaced suggests less of "patrons have taken out half our books!" and more of "we have half the books we used to have!".

Things are just more spaced out in general. The aisles between shelves are wider. This, coupled with the expansion of the table/workstation space, means that the shelves are fewer. It's grown in some spots and shrunk in others -- but in the wrong direction, I'd argue.

That's a real shame about your library closing on Saturdays -- Saturday makes perfect sense as a day to be open, because then people are off work and families can come in as families. We used to go to all sorts of children's programmes and things in the summers when we were young, and I'll bet that a bunch of them were on the weekend.

I have to go back to the library soon to return my books, and so I'll take another look around... and maybe even corner a librarian so that I can ask obnoxious questions :)

JK said...

Libraries are community centers now; there are beautiful new ones popping up all around here, and they have tons of computers and meeting rooms and toys/games for the kids to play... I can't find much "quiet" at the library though...

jeane said...

Is it possible the shelves aren't full because the books are borrowed? I just visited a public library in another town and was surprised not only at how small it was, but that most of the shelves were half empty! I asked someone "is this library new?" and they said "oh, no, it's been here for eighteen years!" So I just assumed either they planned room to grow, or most of the books are being circulated (which is great).

shereadsbooks said...

It may be so -- but the way that the bookends are placed leads me to believe that there aren't all that many books out.

I'll be heading there tomorrow to return some stuff, though, so maybe I'll ask.