Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Reading Is 'In'

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Reading Is 'In'

Article excerpt

Several months ago I attended a brain-storming session where the question under consideration was, "What services will the library need to deliver in the future in order to remain a viable institution?" One participant declared that in order to draw patrons into the library and keep them coming back, we needed to always have technology that was newer, faster, and better than the technology patrons had in their homes. I know of many libraries that are following this model of development, offering the latest computers, printers, scanners, and CD-RW drives for patron use in their computer labs or technology centers. They have trumpeted their Internet access and other available technologies in their publicity materials. And many libraries offer a wide range of computer classes, believing that the primary reason patrons come to the library is to use computers.

In the months since the brainstorming session, while I have been pondering the question of whether the library should concentrate its planning and development efforts primarily on acquiring the latest cutting-edge technologies, I have noticed some interesting developments in the world outside the library.

Bookstores Are 'In'

We have a Borders bookstore in our community, and every time I visit, it is always full of people. It's true that some are in the cafe area while others are listening to the entertainment, but the vast majority of the people in the store are in the aisles of books, browsing through the various titles or unabashedly reading a particular book or magazine. What is most interesting is that I could find no more than two computers in the store for customer use, and even they were only to check on the availability of items. There was no e-mail, no chat, and no Web browsing--which is what many people insist that libraries need--yet the store had plenty of customers looking at the CDs, videos, magazines, and of course, the books.

Techies Know Books

Part of my job is to keep abreast of the latest developments in information technology, so I read a number of technology-related publications. One print publication that comes across my desk regularly is Information Week. Several months ago, the magazine debuted a new section entitled Breaking Away, which acknowledges the need for technology staff to have a life outside the technology-laden workplace.

One weekly feature that appears to be very popular with readers is the Open Book literary quiz. Each issue, several excerpts from a particular book are presented, and readers are asked to identify the book and the author. Entries may be submitted by mail or online. Recent titles selected for the quiz include: Blue Highways by William Heat Moon, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy, The Tale of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter, and The Odyssey by Homer. Contest answers are printed in the next week's issue, along with reader comments of special interest. There's even an online forum where readers can discuss the quiz. I find it quite interesting that a technology magazine would use a literary quiz to increase readership. What is even more surprising is the enthusiastic response to the quiz from supposedly hard-driving, ambitious high-tech professionals.

I've noticed the same renewed enthusiasm for books in my library. After years of unsuccessful attempts to organize book discussion groups, we now have not one, but two book clubs that meet here regularly. Our summer reading program this year set a new daily circulation record on the first day, and a teen reading program that is only in its second year has grown both in participants and in enthusiasm. It would seem that while librarians have been busy promoting our technology to attract patrons, businesses outside the library have been promoting reading in order to attract customers and, through their marketing efforts, have rekindled the public's interest in reading. …

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