Friday, March 12, 2010

The Boston Public Library Dilemma, Continued

Link to March 12 Boston Globe op-ed piece, "Trouble balancing the books".

Excerpt:   America’s first free public library is a cultural jewel on the order of the Boston Symphony Orchestra or the Museum of Fine Arts. Some have argued that it needs a big-money foundation board that can pull in million-dollar donations as the others have. But the BPL is not a private nonprofit institution. It is a department of the city of Boston, just like the schools or police or parks, supported by the taxpayers. Running it is a public trust. To cite one obvious difference with the MFA or the BSO, the library is always free.

This makes calculating the worth of the branches even harder. The very communities with the lowest circulation numbers — Egleston Square, Upham’s Corner, Parker Hill — likely need library services the most. They are the communities least likely to have home computers, easy mobility, or quality schools — or bookstores, for that matter.

Libraries are far from the obsolete buggy whip factories some people like to mock. Teaching citizens how to do primary research is more important than ever in today’s derivative “wiki’’ culture. And that is something librarians are uniquely trained to do.

Related articles:

Boston Speaks Up for Its Libraries.  (3/10/2010)

Boston Public Library Branches to be Ranked in Consolidation Plan. (3/9/2010)

Boston Public Library Anticipating Budget Cuts in 2011. (3/2/2010)

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