Several months ago staff ran a public survey to try and confirm the legitimacy of a longtime booster goal of selling the land under the Library’s Central Branch for condominiums and apartments and then building an expensive new facility right across the street.
Even though they’re calling it a Tuesday night “study session” about our local Library’s goals and future, make no mistake. Despite the impending credulousness of most of our current city council members about what’s really going on here, this is actually instead about rationalizing another big new and unnecessary building project.
So, when one of the results of the survey are stated thus, and quite succinctly:
Access to collections, especially books, remains the most valued service…
Staff immediately runs to a famous technocratic think tank in order to alter the discussion:
A 2014 report, “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries” from the Colorado-based Aspen Institute identified the public library’s three key assets as “people, place and platform.” [http://csreports.aspeninstitute.org/documents/AspenLibrariesReport.pdf] This points to the continued relevance of the library as a public building, a space for gathering, learning, creating and participating. Where library spaces were once dictated by physical collections and demand for books remains high, collections must now co-exist with space for technology and for individual study and large gatherings, quiet pursuits and group work, intellectual thought and creative projects.
Unfortunately, staff’s not telling the council here that this supposedly august “report” was considered by many librarians to be quite controversial in how it de-emphasized books in favor of high tech rec rooms and community “spaces.”
That’s because — contrary to local public opinion — staff wants to de-emphasize books and conventional learning materials in favor of high tech rec rooms and community spaces. And get their big new facility in as justification. Rust never sleeps and neither does ambitious management.
This is an easy one. If the Burbank City Council wants to turn the current Central Branch into an overpriced Boys and Girls Club for adults then be our guest. Go ahead and keep dumbing down your local library. They’ve certainly given you a running start on it over the last 20 years, and so you might as well continue the effort. But, you’ll be ignoring the results of your own commissioned survey.
What people in Burbank want is more and better books above all — not more hanging around spaces for “learning” and intellectual pondering. So stick with building and preserving the Collection and restoring the present facility. You’ll be way out of style, but so much better friends to readers and scholars of all types.