It’s National Library Week, so let’s talk about libraries, but first, let’s listen to Neil Gaiman talk about why he loves libraries. (He claims librarians have asked him not to describe himself as “a feral child raised by librarians.”)
Done? Good. I’ll continue with my library-centric post. …
I was talking last night with a good friend about my pet hobby horse: the location for the revamped North Beach Library — where it should (and shouldn’t) be.
She said, well, we don’t need to worry so much about the fact that the location being considered will only allow a 10-15% expansion of the collection forever and ever after because, really, with the way technology is evolving there shouldn’t be much need for expansion in the future. Libraries aren’t growing like they used to, she said, or words to that effect.
Au contraire, I said. Library visits and circulation stats are booming. People assume that cheap books from Amazon and access to the Web are decreasing library usage, but the exact opposite is true.
Here, take a look at the 2009 California state statistics [PDF file].
Circulation per capita at California public libraries has increased 5% over the past five years. The State mean circulation per capita is 5.78 items. San Francisco clocks in at 10.11.
Stats from the ALA for the nation as a whole show similar trends.
In Los Angeles, about 18 million people visited the city’s 72 libraries in the fiscal year ended in June 2008, up 12 percent from the previous year. Result: a 10 percent spike in checkouts, to a total of 17.2 million books, DVDs, CDs, and other material.
—Los Angeles Daily News
Art Brodsky wrote Our Public Library Lifeline Is Fraying. We’ll Be Sorry When it Snaps for Huffington Post a couple days ago. He talks about the challenges libraries are currently facing.
Support your local library and the library staff not just during National Library Week but 24/7/365. They’re hard working and working harder.
A final note — an excerpt from something Vartan Gregorian wrote in 1999 (complete text here) when he was President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York:
Public libraries in our midst are so much taken for granted that their significance as living institutions is in danger of becoming lost to us. Libraries contain the heritage of humanity, the record of its triumphs and failures and of its intellectual, scientific, and artistic achievements, and its collective memory. Libraries are not only repositories of past human endeavor, they provide tools for learning, understanding, and progress. They are a laboratory of human aspiration and a source of self-renewal, intellectual growth, and hope.
Update: Another why-I-love-libraries Neil Gaiman interview, given in his role as honorary chair of National Library Week.