libraries


libraries
Almost every town in Britain and the US has a public library. Many libraries were built in the 1800s with money given by Andrew Carnegie, a US businessman originally from Scotland.
  Public libraries are often open until late evening during the week, part of Saturday, and in the US even on Sunday. Librarians manage the libraries and advise people how to find the books or information they need.
  Public libraries contain fiction (= story books), non-fiction (= books containing facts), children’s books, and usually magazines, CDs and videos and have computers with access to the Internet. Every library has a catalogue which shows where books on a particular subject can be found. Many US university libraries use the Library of Congress system for arranging books in order on the shelves. In Britain and in public libraries in the US the Dewey decimal classification system is the most used.
  Libraries are often divided into a reference section and a lending section. Books from the reference section, e.g. dictionaries and directories, as well as newspapers and magazines, can only be used in the library. Books from the lending section can be borrowed free of charge for a period of two or three weeks by people who are members of the library. Anyone living in the local area can join a library and obtain a library card. If a book is returned late, after the due date, the borrower has to pay a fine. Public libraries are also a source of local information and a centre for community activities. Many have special programmes for children to help them feel comfortable using a library. In school holidays they organize storytelling and other entertainments.
  Travelling libraries (= libraries set up inside large vans) take books round country areas for people who cannot easily get to a town. In the US travelling libraries are called bookmobiles. Schools, colleges and universities have their own private libraries for the use of students and teachers.
  In both Britain and the US public libraries receive money from local and national government but, increasingly, they do not receive enough for their needs. In Britain some smaller libraries have had to close. In the US people believe strongly that information and education should be freely available. Libraries are important in achieving this but, as in Britain, they do not get sufficient money and depend on the help of volunteers who work without pay.
  The biggest library in Britain is the British Library in London with over 150 million books, CDs and tape recordings. Other important libraries include the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, the Cambridge University Library and the Bodleian Library in Oxford. These libraries are called copyright libraries or legal deposit libraries and are entitled to receive a free copy of every book that is published in Britain. The largest library in the US is the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and it receives a copy of every book that is published in the US.

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▪ 1995

      Violence—both man-made and natural—and the march of technology were the watchwords for libraries in 1994. After it was firebombed in 1993, the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina continued its valiant efforts to maintain its irreplaceable collections, including the richest assemblage of Arabic scientific and mathematical manuscripts in Europe and an invaluable collection of materials on the outbreak of World War I. In addition to rebuilding the catalog and trying to restore the library as a working tool for the people of Sarajevo, the 58 members of the staff still on the job were seeking to produce a retrospective bibliography of Bosnia and Herzegovina. International assistance was being sought through UNESCO and elsewhere. (See Sidebar (Preserving the World's Historical and Cultural Legacy ).) In late July a truck bomb devastated the Jewish cultural centre and library in Buenos Aires, which served Argentina's 300,000 Jews, the Western Hemisphere's second largest community. Nearly 100 persons died, and half of the important collection of Judaica from Europe and South America was lost.

      Natural disasters took their toll as well. Following the devastating January 17 earthquake, Los Angeles-area libraries struggled to recover from damage ranging from collapsed bookstacks to major structural damage. The library at California State University at Northridge, located at the quake's epicentre, was badly damaged, but the main portion of the facility was reopened in late August. Thirty-nine of the County of Los Angeles Public Library's 87 branches were initially closed owing to quake damage, but all but one had opened by mid-February. Forty-one of the Los Angeles Public Library's 64 branches reopened two days after the quake; in mid-October two still remained closed. Partly out of concern for potential earthquake damage, the University of California completed a $40 million renovation project that featured 84 km (52 mi) of underground shelves at its Berkeley campus.

      In October the U.S. Library of Congress announced an ambitious plan to convert its most important holdings into digital form by the year 2000, creating a "virtual library" that would be accessible worldwide over computer networks. A Senate subcommittee held a hearing on "Libraries and Their Role in the Information Infrastructure" on April 19. In July Maryland launched a groundbreaking program to provide free Internet access to its residents through the state's public libraries.

      Not everyone was enthralled with the march of technology, however. A long article by Nicholson Baker in the April 4 issue of The New Yorker described how the great libraries were discarding their card catalogs after replacing them with automated systems. Many U.S. libraries, notably those at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and Harvard, were doing this, as were a consortium of French libraries, the libraries of Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Waseda University, Tokyo, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near London. Baker criticized this practice as shortsighted and anti-intellectual. It was true, he argued, that on-line catalogs made up-to-date processing of new acquisitions possible, they could not be vandalized as card catalogs had been, entries could not be torn out, and they were convenient to use and people could use them via a telephone modem without attending the library. Nevertheless, computerized card catalogs did not always answer the same questions that could be asked of a standard card catalog and they did not always include the "tracings" (comments made on the backs of the cards) and other notes. Where there was multiple input from many different catalogs (as in any large cooperative venture, such as the OCLC [Online Computer Library Center] at Dublin, Ohio) uniform quality was difficult to maintain; countless new errors were being introduced. Card catalogs, Baker wrote, "currently do a better job of collocation [bringing like headings together] than on-line catalogues do."

      Politics had its effect on library management in 1994. In England consideration was being given to removing control of libraries from the counties, where it had been since 1974, and returning it to the districts and boroughs. The reorganization would involve breaking up collections that had been developed over the past 20 years, not to mention the adverse impacts on staffs, services, and stocks.

      Librarians pride themselves on catering to all sectors of the community, not excluding correctional facilities. At Wandsworth Prison in England, the "Escape with a Book" project, which used the library as a venue for exhibitions, talks, and discussion groups, won a community initiative award.

      Ground was broken in late November for the $85 million George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A & M University at College Station. The 38.7-ha (90-ac) archival and educational centre was scheduled to open in 1997.

      Public library circulation in the U.S. showed a modest decline of 3% in 1993, while expenditures rose by 8%, according to the annual University of Illinois survey. The U.K. reported 580 million library loans in 1993, with more than half the population using public libraries. Some £48 million was collected in overdue fines. The mission of public libraries was also seen to be changing. While a century earlier the principal aim had been to educate, inform, and entertain, that priority order had been reversed—now the aim was said to be to entertain, inform, and educate. A recent British Library Association list of the most stolen books indicated that the greatest interest was in sex, the occult, and tropical fish. Libraries were accordingly making great efforts to modernize and appeal to contemporary readers.

      The long-feared closings of the graduate library schools at California's two largest universities, the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of California at Berkeley, were announced. Their library-education programs, however, were merged into two newly created schools.

      The American Library Association's 113th annual conference drew 12,627 registrants to Miami, Fla., in June, a drop in attendance of some 4,500 from the previous year. U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton named attorney Jeanne Hurley Simon to chair the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science in late 1993. Mary Dempsey became Chicago's city library commissioner in January 1994. Gary Strong left the position of California state librarian to head the Queens Borough (N.Y.) Public Library in September. Scott Bennett became Yale University librarian on October 1.

      (GORDON FLAGG; P. HAVARD-WILLIAMS)

      This updates the article library.

▪ 1994

      Librarians suffered from a crisis of identity in 1993. Were they custodians of books? Were they providers of information? Were they exploiters of information? Were they partners in the diffusion or pursuit of knowledge? An article in the British Daily Telegraph claimed, "It's goodbye to the tweed skirt and cardi and hello to the silk and sarong-clad librarian of the Nineties," but also acknowledged that librarians "do need to change our image."

      Libraries across the United States continued to report service cutbacks and layoffs as a result of the poor economy. Particularly hard-hit was California, where the state's 1993-94 budget forced county governments to transfer $2.6 billion in property taxes to schools. Typical of the cuts was the County of Los Angeles Public Library, which lost $29.4 million, half of its budget; this forced two-day-a-week service at 43 of its 87 branches, a reduction by half of operating hours at the others, and the loss of some 200 staff positions. The Baltimore County (Md.) Public Library cut 23 staff positions and closed nine branches in February. The picture was brighter in New York City, where branch public libraries offered six-day-a-week service for the first time since 1947, and a last-minute rally by city and state officials saved the troubled New-York Historical Society library from closing. Public library circulation in the U.S. increased by 3% in 1992, while expenditures rose by 7%, according to the annual University of Illinois survey.

      Two of the nation's leading library education programs were imperiled when the administration at the University of California at Los Angeles announced that its graduate library school would be eliminated and the University of California at Berkeley graduate library school suspended admissions pending an administrative review of the program. In the face of protests from alumni and other supporters, however, both universities announced measures that raised hopes that the programs would be continued in some form.

      The Library of Congress received criticism from Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and others over its decision to release the papers of Justice Thurgood Marshall to the public shortly after his death. The library also came under attack for its minority-hiring-and-promotion practices, which were the subject of House subcommittee hearings in March.

      Former president Jimmy Carter addressed the American Library Association's 112th annual conference, which drew 17,165 registrants to New Orleans, La., in June. In August Hunter College Pres. Paul LeClerc was named president and chief executive officer of the New York Public Library. Chicago Public Library Chief Librarian Carla Hayden resigned in May to become director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Md. The refurbished Los Angeles Central Library reopened October 3, seven years after a devastating arson fire.

      In spite of the uncertainties in the profession, libraries continued to be built. One significant project was the extension of the Carnegie Central Library in Dunfermline, Scotland, birthplace of U.S. steel baron and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Opened in 1879, this library was the first of Carnegie's more than 2,800 benefactions. The extension included a new children's library, a local history collection, and an exhibition area, as well as a £7,000 information retrieval system.

      Two gargantuan buildings, the British Library and the Bibliothèque de France, were also in the process of construction. The British Library had been discussed since 1962 and planned since the 1969 report of the Dainton Committee. Construction on the building, which the public first saw in August 1993 when the scaffolding was removed, would be completed in 1996—27 years after the Dainton Report, eloquent testimony to the "enthusiasm" of the British government for the new library. The project had been affected by several changes of policy, including government vacillation over the increasing costs of a building intended mainly for scholars and totaling £ 450 million. Criticism of the architecture by the likes of Prince Charles (he had said it looked like "an academy for secret police") was also not helpful. The building was expected to house 12 million books, with reading rooms, an exhibition area, laboratories, offices, lecture theatres, and seminar rooms. Below ground would be four basements, the depth of an eight-story building, with 300 km (186 mi) of shelving, galleries, a shop, and a restaurant.

      The Bibliothèque de France was initiated in 1988 and was also planned to come into service in 1996. The new library was viewed as one way of dealing with the accommodation problems of the Bibliothèque Nationale in the centre of Paris as well as of changing the traditional ways of a national library. The new facilities were designed to fill the gaps in existing collections, reinforce the areas of excellence of the Bibliothèque Nationale, and introduce the most modern library technologies. Users would be able to consult the catalog of the library or the French Union Catalogue's 13 million titles. The focus was to be on the needs of scholars, but much-needed services would also be provided to the general public. Collections were to be divided into four subject areas—science and technology; literature and art; social sciences; and history, philosophy, and the humanities. The library would seat 4,000 readers and feature an open-access collection of up to 400,000 volumes and 5,000 periodical titles. Almost 400 km (250 mi) of shelving was planned, and the building would also include exhibition centres and a conference centre comprising a 350-seat auditorium, a lecture room, and six smaller meeting rooms.

      Elsewhere in the world the emphasis continued to be on developing collections and, especially, the skills of the staff. In Africa, schools of information science had been operating for a few years in Ibadan, Nigeria, and Addis Ababa, Eth., through the efforts of Unesco, the Canadian International Development Research Centre, and the respective national governments. Schools of Library and Information Science continued to flourish at the University of Botswana, Gaborone, and at Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya. Francophone schools, such as those at Dakar, Senegal, and Rabat, Morocco, had also gone beyond the traditional concepts of custodial librarianship and branched out into information science. Efforts were being made to establish a Consortium of African Information Science Schools to include Anglophone and Francophone schools. The work of the Asian Institute of Technology near Bangkok, Thailand, was well-established in the field, as was the School of Library and Information Studies of the Malaysian Institute of Technology, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

      (GORDON FLAGG; P. HAVARD-WILLIAMS)

      This updates the article library.

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Universalium. 2010.

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