By Eleanor Shelton
When I was a kid, I jumped at the chance to accompany my younger sister into the library in the small town where our grandparents own a summer cottage.
To her, libraries were a place where the next adventure waited, another era came to life, or more facts could be added to her ever-expanding brain. To me, the books were colorful, stout or thin strips lined up alongside each other like soldiers at a military parade.
New Library in China.
I hated to read or write, and libraries were quiet places that became boring about ten minutes after I entered them. I was dyslexic and I no more thought reading was fun than I did going to the dentist.
So why did I go each time with my sister? Because there was a Dairy Queen right next door and I knew that my patience would be rewarded with an ice cream cone.
My grandmother was a librarian with a master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Michigan. Her passion for reading seemed to hold a higher place than her love for her grandchildren. Libraries were placed where I had to behave or risk a stern grandmotherly look from over a pair of thin spectacles.
Fast forward 15 years and libraries are among my favorite places in the world. I’m still dyslexic, although thanks to tutoring and learning tricks, I no longer hate to read and write. As a matter of fact, I love doing both of those things. A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to read an article in The New York Times about new libraries all over the world, becoming tourist attractions
A few of the new stunning and interactive libraries that have opened recently around the world are serving as tourist attractions. No longer are libraries stodgy places where the nerdy introverts go to find excitement. Now libraries are destinations where the community can make a movie, 3D print artwork, attend a concert, use as an office, or even catch a train. And, oh yeah, you can still check out a book.
Delft University of Technology Library in the Netherlands.
The University of Michigan still offers a degree but no longer is it called Library Sciences. Now a student can earn a Master of Information Science. Librarians are dealing with information in all its meanings and interconnectedness in this shrinking world. Courses such as Programs, Information and People; Data Manipulation; and Opportunity have replaced the Dewey Decimal System in the Age of Intelligent Machines. Librarians are now data management experts. We're a long way from the librarians and research assistants from my grandmother's day.
I wondered about the libraries in my area. About 80 percent of the 200,000 people who call the Fort Collins area home have library cards.
- more than 2,800 people visit one of the three libraries
- over 8,000 items, including 3,500 children’s material are checked out,
- Library staff answers more than 300 information-seeking questions
- Over 170 community members attend one of the many library programs, including five daily children’s programs.
“Still and always libraries are a gateway to knowledge and culture—that gateway just looks different than it did 25 years ago. No longer are books the stand-alone purpose of a library. Today we’re all about partnerships, networking, reinforcing cultural movements, making sure technology is freely available to everyone, (though we still check out books--they just might be in digital form),” says Anne Macdonald, Adult Services Librarian at the Harmony Library Branch of the Poudre River Public Library District.
Today, visions of ice cream no longer fill my head when I think about a trip to the library. Now I wonder at our luck at being able to freely walk into a library and walk out a slightly different person. Within those walls are housed hundreds of thousands of stories, the intellectual and passionate pursuits of millions of people, and the key to unlocking our imaginations.