Magazine article American Libraries

The Crawford Files: The Philosophy of Joint-Use Libraries

Magazine article American Libraries

The Crawford Files: The Philosophy of Joint-Use Libraries

Article excerpt

Will the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library--the massive new San Jose Public/San Jose State University library (AL, Sept., p. 16)-succeed? Are joint-use libraries the wave of the future? Although it's too early to say, I'd guess the answers are yes and no. I expect the San Jose library to be a success--but that success may not mean much for other joint-use libraries.

Not first or last, but the biggest

The new library is not the first library to serve both an academic institution and the public. Many college and university libraries serve the public informally: The public can use the collection but can't check books out. Some community college libraries also serve the public with full circulation privileges, sometimes with public library money involved.

King isn't even the first library planned as a joint college/public library, and it won't be the last. A week after the King Library debuted, a new Seminole Community Library opened in Florida, a joint project of the city and St. Petersburg College.

The King Library is probably the biggest joint-use library to date: one nine-story, 677,000-square-foot facility to serve a large American city and a large public university. There's more to it than that; other factors make it an ideal candidate for success.

Not lip-service cooperation

I've heard about joint-use libraries here and abroad that were either good academic libraries and lousy public libraries or vice versa. These problematic libraries usually represent lip-service cooperation: public libraries with a token academic librarian or vice versa. That's a recipe for mediocrity at best. Public libraries and academic libraries are different institutions serving different (albeit overlapping) needs. One merged collection, staff, and approach will rarely suit both sets of needs well.

The King Library is, in effect, two libraries in a single building taking advantage of overlapping needs and economies of scale. It has two directors: Jane Light, San Jose Public Library director, and Patricia Breivik, dean of the SJSU library. It will continue to use both Dewey and LC, with most public library facilities on lower floors, most academic facilities on upper floors. San Jose also has 17 branch libraries--and people read in the heart of Silicon Valley. The library system had 12.7 circulations per capita in 2001-02. (Incidentally, in this mecca of high technology, the local paper stressed that the King Library opened with 1. …

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