Friday, March 19, 2010

A Library System Rooted in Branches

Like discount stores, public libraries are outlets for inventory, but they’re also a threshold space. If the hush of decorum protects visitors from thought police and casual annoyance, it also allows for more contact with the world, whether people in a room or thoughts on a page.

Libraries also have other kinds thresholds, whether computers, toys, a table for a card game, or information on a flyer. Advances in technology are changing the role of library as a warehouse for materials, and those changes are still very much in debate. For all that change, there’s still great attachment to libraries as a community space, sometimes even intensified by changes in the way children learn or spend time after school.

Some thoughts on why branches matter can be found in this week’s Dorchester Reporter. More thinking about the future of branches can be found in an interview on BNN News with BPL President Amy Ryan. One experiment with a redefinition of library space can be found at the Boston Street Lab, a temporary storefront library that recent operated in Chinatown. BNN News did a report on Boston Street Lab earlier this year. For thoughts on different kinds of access provided by libraries, there are the president of the Friends of the Dudley branch, Sarah-Ann Shaw and author and BPL trusee James Carroll. For a deeper contemplation of library space, there’s the scene from the Wim Wenders film, Der Himmel uber Berlin.