This summer NPR featured a series on libraries, and I unfortunately missed out on the original airings. Luckily I love NPR and therefore troll the website every now and again, when I came across Keys to the Whole Wide World: American Public Libraries.
It’s amazing what public libraries offer to lend to their patrons – cake pans, fishing poles, even humans. Yes, you read me correctly. Humans. Why? Because it’s the library isn’t about access to books – it’s about the connection to the community – the conversation. It’s about how each library approaches unique needs and responds in a way that the library remains not only valid but vital. And when people find that the library can meet even the strangest needs, they come back, again and again, so that they can continue the conversation.
People who wonder about the validity of the library in a digital world are right to wonder. If a library is just a book storage facility, then how will it remain valid when libraries go bookless? Is it still a library if it contains no books? San Antonio opened the country’s first bookless library, Bexar Biblio-Tech, this past September in response to growing interest and need for e-book access. So, is the paper-based book dead? What does this mean for libraries?
Libraries are quite resilient, and resilience is the key to survival. However, survival is not inherent. Libraries need great PR, great directors who push back against the doubters, and great programs since actions speak louder than words. And getting your library featured on NPR certainly doesn’t hurt. I certainly learned a thing or two from the stories, and I work in one.