Like public schools before them, public libraries are coming under increasing scrutiny in a time of social change.
One example of this is the most recent issue of "CQ Researcher," entitled "The Future of Libraries." Each issue of the magazine (published by the Congressional Quarterly) tackles some topic with public policy implications.
The overarching concern of the CQ Researcher was technology. The issues asked, Are America's libraries moving too quickly to adopt technology?
Our culture's idea of service has changed quite a lot over the past half century, and probably not for the better.
I realized this (again) while watching the movie Back to the Future. Marty has just arrived in the 50's, and watches a car pull into the local Texaco station. FOUR young men leap out. One pumps gas, one wipes the windshield, one checks the oil, one checks the pressure of the tires. Our idea of service used to be lavish personal attention.
These days, we define service as "self-service." Cheaper, it is - but meaner, too.
Maren Francis is the owner of Hooked on Books, an independent bookstore in Castle Rock. She also happens to be a member of my library board. Maren just got back from a big conference of the American Booksellers Association, and shared some of her insights with me about trends in the book business.
The main issue among booksellers these days is the rise of such big chain stores as Borders, and Barnes and Noble. For consumers, this certainly looks like a good deal: the big chains offer big discounts.
A few days ago, I got a call from a patron with a complaint. Why didn't any of our libraries provide public computers? It happened that her son was in town and needed to crank out some resumes. She was, she said, shocked that her local library -- and even the Koelbel Library in the Arapahoe Library District -- didn't have a computer, equipped with a word processor and laser printer, available for such a task.