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Public Libraries

A library which is accessible by the public and is generally funded from public sources.

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One thing that government does exceedingly well!

  • Sep 23, 2009
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Here is one of those rare subjects I think just about all of us can agree on.  The public library is an absolutely indispensible part of any thriving community,  Libraries serve people of every age group in a variety of ways.  You might think that here in the digital age public libraries may have become less relevant.  Exactly the opposite is true.  The fact of the matter is that public libraries are busier today than ever before.  I must give the devil his due.  Libraries are usually something that government does very well.

In my community the public library has a central branch  and 4 or 5 satellite locations.  As you might expect the central location is by far the most popular and offers the widest variety of services.  It is here that I pick up a good many of the latest non-fiction titles that I read and review online.  The price is certainly right.  Likewise, my wife and I take full advantage of the thousands of movies that are available on both VHS and DVD.  We are fans of flicks from the 1940's and 1950's and find that the library is the best place to grab the films we enjoy the most.  Likewise, the library maintains a vast collection of audio CD's.  This is a great way to sample the music of artists that I am not at all familiar with.  Another extremely important service offered by our local library is the computer room.   During these tough economic times more and more residents are using  these computers to create resumes, search for job openings and do research for high school and college projects.  Meanwhile,  the library offers a variety of reading programs for youngsters.  There is also a community room that offers lectures and art shows among other things.  And on any given weekday you will find dozens of seniors perusing the vast collection of magazines and periodicals.  The public library helps to keep these folks engaged and interested. 

Here in the digital age public libraries are now able to offer services that just a decade ago were absolutely unimaginable.  In doing a bit of research for this piece I happened upon the website for the New York Public Library.  Here I discovered something called 'The NYPL Digital Gallery".  This site provides "free and open access to over 700,000 images digitized from the New York Public Library's vast collections.  Among the images available are illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more."   I tried typing in the term "Uncle Sam" and discovered dozens of government posters featuring this personification of the American government.  Very cool!   I imagine that libraries offer many more online services that I am not even aware of.

So there you have it.  I cannot imagine what life would be like without public libraries.  They have always been an important part of my life.  I have found that the people who are work at libraries are among the most dedicated and helpful government employees around.   They are generally not in it for the money and it is quite apparent that they love what they do.  When drawing up a list of priorities in my community I would always put the library near the top of the list.    Very highly recommended!
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September 29, 2010
Good review. You got me thinking about my own library hopes and fears, as where I teach must downsize their tiny library from 20k to 9k volumes, and move more to online data. I anticipate problems ahead as budgets shrink and information storage shifts to databases and passwords from open stack print access. Most patrons now flock to computers, but far far fewer check out books. They prefer CDs or videos. This traffic helps overall, but if libraries move to e-books and databases, how will the public be able to access these as freely? Lots of us without access to university research libraries and costly journals suffer already with these limits. My LAPL cannot afford what the U of Cal can (or did, given budget crunches all over). There's a new UT San Antonio tech library that opened: entirely free of books. If a patron lacks access as staff or student, this shuts out a lot of readers. As an independent scholar, this barrier to digital knowledge by gatekeeping worries me.
January 28, 2010
Great review. Libraries are definitely my favorite public service. How much I enjoy living in a particular city is frequently defined in part by the quality of their libraries. And your point about the increasing relevance of libraries in the digital age is well thought out.
September 30, 2009
I get a fair number of the new books I read and review on Lunch at my local library. Can't imagine life without libraries! Thanks for your comments!
September 30, 2009
I've recently gone to the public library in Singapore and am surprised to find these institutions to have upgraded themselves as well. I found a lot of new books (and I mean brand new) available which I'd have to pay if I go to the bookstores. So, now, I visit them to save hundreds of dollars. You are right about the non-fiction books as well. In addition, there are guide books for the computer softwares, travel guides and also books like architectural hardcover books which I like but will never buy coz they are just too expensive! Unlike you, I haven't been to public libraries for last 15 years and only revisited recently. It's very nice to find them keeping up with the rest of the world indeed!
September 25, 2009
yea for libraries! librarians are the gatekeepers of knowledge and information!
... and providers of [mostly] free cds/dvds. :D

I'm awed by NYPL's website alone and can't wait to visit their stacks. They have a great book preservation department.
September 23, 2009
Good review....I have always kept a library card. I also do an inordinate amount of research at Emerson Library, an outstanding resource at Webster University and one of the top university libraries in the country....I love that place! I can't imagine a world without libraries and hope that this technological world we live in doesn't put them out of business.....a lot of people are going for a paperless world...but I don't see that happening.
September 25, 2009
I do not know what I would do without [free!] library access to these very expensive databases. The only tag allowed on my keychain is my library card for LAPL. I love LAPL's labyrinthinesque Central Library. It's maze-like, but in a good way! Their InfoNow librarians are some of the most knowledgeable, helpful people in the world. There are times where I still need to consult print reference collections -- and academic libraries are some of the only places where I can access this stuff. I've been conducting an inordinate amount of research in academic reference stacks as well. ;D I don't see our ever being fully paper-less, there is something to be said for the tangible, printed word. Patrons still like to print out very small quantities of information, so for it being completely paperless, I find that highly unlikely. And...there is still a level of cache of actually owning the book. But I toggle between both worlds. I'll read the news in my RSS, and occasionally I'll actually pick up the real WSJ. But libraries are integrating more really cool technologies ... like text messaging reference, RFID, etc! It's a very cool time for library 2.0.
September 26, 2009
You make so many good points here. Indeed....I hope the world never goes paperless, as I so enjoy owning a great many books, among other paper goodies and certainly like holding a book in my hand...there's just something wonderful about that. I'm also in esteem of good librarians, as they have so much acquired knowledge, and I for one have taken advantage of that. They've helped me many a time find the right book or research paper. Like you, I do go between both worlds and like many others now get a lot of my local and national news off the internet.
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review by . June 23, 2011
I love public libraries and would keep them around if I were in charge.     That may sound like a common statement, but in my case it's quite a generous compliment. I'm one of those heartless, evil libertarians rightists keep saying are unpatriotic and leftists keep saying are racist. (And no, I'm not especially unpatriotic or racist. I can see the angle on the first one because I think nationalistic traditions are given far more relevance than they need and I hate the idea of …
review by . February 10, 2010
Public libraries are the ultimate reusable resource
Even in this age where reduce, reuse and recycle are three ideas that are on the minds of many, one place may get overlooked for it's green services. I'll give you a hint ...Shhh... if you enjoy books, like to save money and are an eco-conscious person look no further than your local public library. Instead of purchasing a book, see if your local public library has it in stock. As you probably know, when you are finished with the book, just return it and repeat the process.  The best part is …
Quick Tip by . August 27, 2010
Our library has DVDs and Blu-rays. Movies, documentaries. Self help. How-to. The library is networked with over 30 other libraries in the area, so I can get just about anything I want for free, delivered to my branch library. It's like having Netflix. I put holds on several items and wait to see which ones come in first. I do this for books, too. Here's an extra tip. Browse for new books, movies, TV shows on DVD, etc. Then go to the library site and reserve the ones you want. Some take …
Quick Tip by . July 11, 2010
I believe that all public libraries should be cited as national treasures and given the necessary funding to thrive and help nourish the communities to which they belong. Libraries are depositories of information and opinions. Support your local libraries through your patronage and volunteerism and support the intellectual growth of your town! Books = knowledge = advancement of the species. Gee, not very subtle about this one, am I?
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
i volunteered at a local library for the summer reading program. I got to meet all kinds of people and had a lot of fun reading the books for the story time hour. Public libraries are a good resource for everyone and they need to be better funded.
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
Some need restoration,new books.
review by . February 17, 2010 is the world library catalog. Use WorldCat to find books in libraries near you.      Tip: Most US public libraries will give you a library card if you live in the same state. Get cards from libraries in cities near you. Create accounts on their websites. Use WorldCat to find a book you want to read. Click through to a library near you that has the book. Reserve the book. They will put it on the Hold shelf for you to pick up.      Review of …
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on I never could … more
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Public libraries exist in most nations of the world and are often considered an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Public libraries are distinct from research libraries, school libraries, or other special libraries  in that their mandate is to serve the public's information needs generally (rather than serve a particular school, institution, or research population), as well as offering materials for general entertainment and leisure purposes. Public libraries typically are lending libraries, allowing users to take books and other materials off the premises temporarily; they also have non-circulating reference collections. Public libraries typically focus on popular materials such as popular fiction  and movies, as well as educational and nonfiction materials of interest to the general public; computer and internet access is also often offered.

In addition to print books and periodicals, most public libraries today have a wide array of other media including music CDs, movies on video tape and DVD, as well as facilities to access the Internet and inter-library reservations. Readers' advisory is a fundamental public library service that involves suggesting fiction and nonfiction titles (often called "readalikes"). Public libraries may also provide other services, such as community meeting rooms, storytelling for infants, toddlers, and children, or after-school programs. In person and on-line programs for reader development, ...
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