Shhhhhh . . . Libraries at Work

A New Series from The Bob Edwards Show

 

 

In recent years, public libraries have worked hard to shed their reputation for dusty stacks and tight lipped librarians; look no further than the youtube video of librarians dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” to see that the public library is cutting loose.  And as many people are turning to their public library for support during the current recession, using the library internet to apply for jobs, and to check out books, movies, and music, the new laid-back image is well-timed.  But just as the recession hit many citizens’ pocket books, libraries are also struggling to keep their doors open for patrons and provide the services people need. 

To celebrate National Book Month, we will look at the successes and problems of our national library system. Today, Bob talks with current American Library Association president Roberta Stevens. She discusses how libraries have changed over the past 20 years, and shares  librarians’ struggles to meet the community’s growing demands even as library budgets are slashed all over the country.  Then, library historian Matthew Battles gives the then-and-now of world libraries, from the famed library at Alexandria to the genesis of modern public libraries.  Battles is the author of Library: An Unquiet History and is a co-founder of the blog http://www.hilobrow.com/.  We conclude today’s show with a visit to the New York Public Library’s reference desk at their main branch in Midtown Manhattan.  There, reference librarians answer questions via phone, emails, chat, and text messages.  For your own answers, click here or call 917-ASK-NYPL.

Next week, we attend a book club discussion at Jessup Correctional Facility in Maryland and talk with Glennor Shirley, Library Coordinator for the Maryland Correctional Education Libraries.  Glennor blogs about her work here.  Then, we head the other way out of DC towards Virginia’s Fairfax County, where the local library partnered with the judicial system, sentencing some first time offenders to a literature course in the program Changing Lives through Literature.