Long Live Libraries

Medical Library

I cannot remember my first trip to a library, as it seems as though libraries have always formed a part of my consciousness. Such wonderful spaces filled with books of all sizes and colours for both the young and the not-so-young reader. As a teenager, especially, I spent many hours in my local public library. I would borrow my full quota of 12 books and then read and return them within the week. These days I spend most of my library time in the university, but I still hold a great affection for the public lending system. I think possibly the best public library I’ve been to in recent years was the new one in Kirkwall, Orkney. It has a truly phenomenal children’s section and their fiction collection seems quite literally endless. I would seriously consider moving to Orkney Mainland just to have that library as my local!

But, of course, libraries are not the domain of just books these days. Libraries are required to be at the forefront of knowledge transfer. They need to cater for the changing needs of those they serve, and they need to maintain their relevancy in a digital age. I’ve been thinking a lot about libraries today (see today’s Tumblr) after watching a great talk by Joshua Prince-Ramos, the architect behind the Seattle public library construction. He talks about the social role that libraries have, and how his design in Seattle accommodates this through its integration of a ‘living room’ area: a freely available communal space for conversation, rest or simply respite from the rain. He also talks about how the space within the library needs to be flexible in order to adapt to the changing and unforeseeable demands of the future. His observations concerning library use are incisive, and his solutions to some of the problems pertaining to flexible space are extremely innovative. I thoroughly recommend that you take the time to listen to it!

Do you use your public library? Do you think that libraries in general are keeping abreast of technological advances? What changes would you like to see effected in your local library?


January 24, 2008. Creativity, Environment.


  1. nengaku replied:

    I’ve been a library fan since my mom worked in one while my dad was in college and I would hang out there waiting for her to finish.
    Have you seen this free online library? I love it! Great for hermits 🙂

  2. Penelope Anne replied:

    We use our library and support it well with overdue fines.
    They have gone technical but I do like that they keep books there and keep areas seperated.
    We generally have 100+ library books at home a week.
    In fact if I can avoid buying a book I do…only because most books are very expensive.
    I wish I could get more of our textbooks from a library.

  3. Kelly replied:

    Looks like I’m going to have to visit that library in Seattle, sounds lovely! It’s only about 35 minutes away from me.

    I love the local library. We go there every two weeks. It is full of gorgeous smells and warm furniture, old wood. I’ve been going to the same library since I was born. I live in a different town now, but I will drive the extra few minutes to return to the one I love.

  4. pussreboots replied:

    I don’t use my local libraries as much as I used to. Part of that is because of its limited hours. Part of it is because I have so many unread books at home that I want to read and clear from my shelves. Nonetheless I fully support my library and think it is a value to the community.

  5. Daz Cox replied:

    Libraries are our true national treasures. I really only go there when I want to see the art books these days though.

  6. amypalko replied:

    Good to know you’re a fan, Nengaku! And yes, gutenberg is a fabulous resource for hermits and non-hermits alike 😉

    I must confess to doing a fine line in fines myself, Penelope Anne! Wow, a 100 books at a time – how do you keep track of them all? I’m afraid I’m such a sucker for books that I can’t resist them. I buy a lot of second hand books and discount bargain basement books, especially kids ref books.

    Oh, Kelly, you are so lucky. I would be there is a shot if I could. If you watch the talk they show you a computerised tour and it looks like such an amazing space!

    I have that same unread book problem, Pussreboots. But I’m sure if we’re honest, there are worse problems to have 😉

    They are our ‘true national treasures’, aren’t they, Daz! I don’t blame you for going to check out art books, as I would imagine that they would be particularly expensive to buy.

  7. celticlibrarian replied:

    Well…I actually have to use my library as I work there. 🙂 We have access to all sorts of books through agreements with Universities, and we also have DVDs, Videos, Audiobooks, and music CDs.

    Let’s just sy that it’s dead handy to work there.

  8. Nicholas replied:

    Call me a Luddite, but I think that public libraries should be about books first and last. They can deal with other matters and technologies too — in another room, in the basement. I gave up using the library where I last lived in London because they set up a “play area” for small children in one corner, which meant screams and yells and other things that should not occur in a library. Complaining was futile.

    The library in the town where I now live, in Florida, is wonderful. It’s open seven days a week (three of those days till 9.00pm), and there are no fines for overdue books. And no play areas!

  9. amypalko replied:

    It’s always lovely to come across someone who loves their job, Celtic Librarian, and you are clearly one of those people. I hope you came back and visit me here often 🙂

    Ah, Nicholas, I have been one of those mothers whose toddlers have decided to run off during a visit at the library, and so I have great sympathy for the poor harassed parent trying to quieten a distressed child whilst others look on wishing you were somewhere else. I think maybe it’s best to have different libraries to cater for different clientele. That way kids could be brought into the library system and develop a love and appreciation for libraries, and adults could have the peace and quiet they are looking for. It would only work in large populated areas though…

  10. Mike replied:

    I love libraries. I use my public one quite often.

    Our city library has its children’s room downstairs from the rest of the library, so it is completely removed from the other patrons. It even has its own entrance. It works out well.

    I saw your ‘library in the mirror’ photo over at tumblr- what a gorgeous library! Is that your university library?

  11. amypalko replied:

    See, that just sounds like the perfect solution, Mike! Oh, the photo is not of my uni library – it’s the library at Edinburgh’s Royal College of Physicians. You can see some more pics from my visit there, if you like.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: