Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Function of National Libraries

National libraries are established by governments for three purposes. The first role of a national library is to house the collection of the most important works in that country. There is some debate as to whether or not the Library of Congress is the national library of the United States. Some sites contend that in the U.S., there is no national library, although the Library of Congress is similar in many ways to other national libraries. However, other sites refer to the Library of Congress as the National Library or America’s Library. It seems that if the Library of Congress is, in fact, not the national library of the United States, it is only because it has not specifically been designated as such.
Three main types of National Libraries in the United States
Library of Congress
National Agricultural Library
National Library of Medicine
National bibliographic control is the second purpose of a national library. Some libraries do this through mandatory or legal deposit laws, in which publishers are legally required to submit copies of copyrightable materials to the national library, sometimes even if they do not intend to publish the work.
A third function is to have international bibliographic control. This facilitates the location and acquisition of information by foreign users. Having similar cataloging systems in place is critical to fulfilling this function for the national library.
A complete list of national libraries in the world may be found at:

Do you think there is a National Library of the United States? Give your reasoning.


Monday, October 20, 2008

The Future of the Czech National Library

Check this article out, written by Stephen Baylay. Apparently the proposed Czech National Library has been causing a sensation within Prague and its surrounding areas. Opposition to the architecturally innovative structure by Jan Kaplicky has brought attention to the thought of even building a national library. Jan Kaplicky won in a contest to design the National Library of Czech Republic. Some call it an “octopus” while others, including the author love it!
Does the architectural structure of a building really reflect what’s inside it? In the case of the proposed Czech library, would it increase or decrease patronage? What do you think of the proposed library? Good or bad? What does this article imply about libraries and the images they portray to the public?

Baylay, S. (2008). It's big, it's bold - but are the citizens of the Czech capital ready for this? [Electronic Version]. The Guardian. Retrieved October 19, 2008, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2008/jan/06/architecture

A Different Perspective of National Libraries...

Contrary to what most people may think, even national libraries are struggling to survive. In war-torn Afghanistan there is no official national library. Therefore, the central public library in Kabul has taken up the role of playing the National Library of Afghanistan, for lack of a better library. All their books are pre-1980’s and the new books are only in the children’s section. Most of the staff have not taken any courses in librarianship, but have a visible desire to help out in any way possible. Gift books have been donated to the library from Iran and the United States, but are still shelved away, not catalogued and available to the public. Gholamreza Amirkhani, a professor from the National Library of Iran the academic Library of Kabul University and found it was a horrific place designated for book burning during the Taliban regime’s rule. He says, “At first I could not believe that books were still burned in the 21st century: however, seeing where it was done, I accepted this bitter fact.” (Amirkhani, 2002) During the Taliban’s regime (Infoplease.com, 2008) from 1996 to 2001 many of the books were burned to “restrict the books to the Pashtu language.” Although the central public library in Kabul has taken up the role of the National Library of Afghanistan, there is a multitude of work that needs to be done. The Afghanistan National Archive contains historical manuscripts and documents that were thankfully not harmed by the Taliban. These ancient treasures will be a catalyst to helping build up the National Library of Afghanistan’s own collection of work.
What are some suggestions to help the National Library of Afghanistan become a stronger and more publicized library? What other objectives could be thought to make the National Library of Afghanistan a thriving and actual place for patrons throughout the country?

Amirkhani, G. (2002). Visitors find War-weary Kabul Librarians struggling to rebuild. American Libraries, 33(11).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Targeting Teens Only: Example Time

Let's follow up on the topic of separation of services for teens and the remaining patronage can be seen in the lively conversations the world has been having about video games in the library. Interactive video games such as Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution have been popular additions to public libraries—but as an attraction for the teen crowd primarily.

The coverage of the new gameplay in libraries ignores all other potential audiences in favor of attracting that teen/tween demographic. What seems to be forgotten is that Grandma’s a gamer too! With the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, popular tech blogs stood up and took notice of the attention the gaming system got from the 60+ crowd as well as the youth.

With the Nintendo Wii already getting teens into the library, why aren’t these programs also being offered up to an older crowd?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Public Libraries

While visiting my small local library I was shocked to see its new appearance. Bright posters of youth oriented subjects were in abundance. There was a large variety of teen magazines in stock. Never before had I seen the library acknowledge the presence of its young patrons so strongly. My childhood experience of the library had always been an adult library featuring a shelf of young adult books (with children's books hidden in a corner). It was a good feeling seeing this group represented in a nice display of materials. Apparently others had the same feeling because the library was swarming with teens and young children. This too was a change and a nice one however, something was missing. Other groups within the community were absent. Interestingly enough another library I frequently attend had a change similar in look to my neighborhood library. After doing some research I found what may indeed be the reason for this change. Public libraries are focusing on youths in order to justify their significance.
This belief in planning themes specifically for the creation of loyal youths can be seen in current literature on public libraries. Miller(2008), an experienced librarian, even says, "One of the most challenging and important customer groups of public libraries is teens" (ix). Libraries, like the Detroit Public Libraries in particular, are showing their support in such beliefs by implementing programs and services specifically for youths. These programs are well advertised in the hopes of exciting youths into attending libraries. One nice example is seen in H.Y.P.E. (Helping Young People Excel) a program offered at Main Library. The nice color photographed pamphlets and website boast the library's possession of new technologies, gaming systems, movies, and books all in an enclosed room for youths only (2008).
While it is nice that public libraries are offering such provisions to the community one is left wondering whether their approach is appropriate. Other members of society are left with standard services. This does not seem to fit the intention of public libraries. According to McCook and Myers (2002), regarding the function of public libraries, ". . . their programs and priorities usually are based on the general needs of the public as a whole" (17). Yet there is no eagerness in trying to lure older members of the community into libraries with great programs and advertising. This can be seen on the Main Library's web page. It is dull in comparison to the one aimed at youths.
Does this method of focusing on youths fit your definition of a public library? Do you think this is a good direction for public libraries? Is there a better way for librarians to draw teens without appearing to ostracize other groups in the community?
McCook, Kathleen De La Pena & Myers, Margaret. (2002). Opportunities in Library and
Information Science Careers. Chicago. VGM Career Books.
Miller, Donna P. (2008). Crash Course in Teen Services. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.