Library clears bookshelves for coffee, couches, a culture of comfort

Coming to a library near you. If it hasn’t already happened, your library will be next. Increasingly library news is about offering students couches, coffee and a culture of comfort.

The trend is towards letting e-books do the heavy lifting, since librarians seemed to have developed a disdain for hard copy books. When the language librarians use to describe physical books contains the words ‘dusty’ and ‘lugging around heavy books’, you can be assured they’ll be disappearing from the shelves.

The latest library renovation, a red flag term for book purging, is taking place at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, PA. According to a report by Matt Berlanger of WTAE News in Pittsburgh, the school library is purging 13,000 books in a high-tech overhaul.

Because a test-run of offering students more couches and armchairs and even a coffee bar that raises money for charity has been very successful at the school, they plan to incorporate those elements into the renovation of the library.

Really? Do students need more couches? What happened to P.E.??? And what about educating and challenging their minds instead of letting them sink into the sofa?

We have a Youth Section at our local public library. It’s glassed in so they are somewhat separate, but you can see the computer screens. Everyone of them is playing video games. I’ve yet to see anyone studying since they got their own space several years ago.

At Penn-Trafford High, the school principal, Scott Inglese, says the ‘makeover’ is part of a schoolwide trend of de-emphasizing hard-copy books, with students accessing books and other information online. “It’s going to be a whole new world in here,” said Paul Conrad, librarian at Penn-Trafford.

Their whole new world will only have 6,000 recently published and classic books. But they’ll have plenty of computers and places to charges their ‘devices’.

It’s tragic. We’re dumbing down the kids. Libraries are catering to a culture of comfort instead of creating curiosity about the world.  Meanwhile while there’s a silent scream from books being whisked off to the dust bins.


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Award winning libraries

Yiddish Book centerOne of the winners of this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service awards is The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Center introduces students to modern Yiddish literature in an attempt to save the Yiddish language from disappearing. In the past 34 years, they’ve collected over a million books. The center’s founder and president, Aaron Lansky said,  “Our goal is to put old books in the hands of new readers, so we have distributed books to libraries across the world.”

“We literally pulled books out of garbage cans and off street corners.” In the past five years, the library has posted 12,000 books online that have been downloaded more than 100,000 times, Mr. Lansky said. “We’re pushing the envelope of what it means to be a library.”

Other award winners of the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service are:

  •  Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York.
  • The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, Nevada.
  • Mid-Continent Public Library, Independence, Missouri.
  • Mystic Aquarium, Mystic, Connecticut.
  •  North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Octavia Fellin Public Library, Gallup, New Mexico.
  •  Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Norman, Oklahoma.
  • Yiddish Book Center, Amherst, Massachusetts.

The annual awards are presented by the Institute of Museum and Library Service, the main source of federal support for the country’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.

First lady, Michelle Obama, will hand out the medals.