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Sep 11

For a change, they are not busy writing software codes; rather, this group of techies in the city is setting up a library for underprivileged children. On International Literacy Day on Wednesday, Bangalore-based Ness Technologies India Private Limited, announced the initiative and said that the main aim of the library would be to foster healthy reading habits among kids, who
had little access to books.

The library will come up at the Dodabelle Government School in Kengeri. The school has been adopted by the corporate house in April. “We are thinking of formally inaugurating the library by the first week of October,” said Neha Arora, head, corporate social responsibilities (CSR) of Ness Technologies.

“We hope to collect at least 1,500 books during our month-long book-collection drive. We want to stack the library with storybooks, textbooks, atlas, children’s puzzles and educational games,” said John Pallepamu, an employee of Ness Technologies.

“The response from our colleagues has been encouraging. Each one of them has promised to either donate old books of their children or buy new ones for the library,” said Reanna Pereira, another member, involved in developing the library. A core group of seven people of Ness Technologies are involved in creating the library. The school currently has around 140 students in Class I to Class VII. The school has five teachers, including the headmaster.

“We’re looking forward to have a library in our school. The library will introduce the students to a large and vast collection of books. There are some students, who cannot even afford to buy their textbooks,” said Anand Rao, headmaster of the school.

As a part of its corporate social responsibility, Ness Technologies has tied up with Peace Child, a Bangalore-based NGO.

Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/bangalore/report_techies-get-together-to-set-up-a-library-for-underprivileged-kids-in-bangalore_1435593

Dec 15

Brooklyn's main library has embraced its role as social hub for toddlers, teens and adults, shaking off the stigma of silence.

Toddlers race around bookshelves, school groups meander noisily and parents with children are tucked in corners reading aloud -- all in all, the youth wing of the Brooklyn Central Library is the sonic equivalent of a playground. 

But here, it's not just the youth wing that's boisterous. Through the front door footsteps echo off the walls and in the main gallery people sip coffee at tables. The Popular library, a bluntly accurate name for one wing, is packed with adults using computers and browsing DVD's. 

The Central library allows eating, drinking, chatting and even -- when there happens to be a concert in the 189 seat Dweck Center for Contemporary Culture on the ground floor -- very loud music. At most libraries, silence is golden, but here it is vitually non-existant.

Lined up in neat rows like minivans at a shopping mall are empty strollers decked out with the extra jackets, hats, bottles and bags awaiting the return of parents and children attending Toddler Time at the Central library. Toddler Time is one of the community programs offered for neighborhood toddlers ages 18 months to three years old. Toddler Time attracts about 30 toddlers which, according to library staff, means that about 70 people could be packed around one facilitator reading a book in the youth services area. Potentially due to the temporary closure of the Park Slope branch, this is a populated spot in the neighborhood. So whatever happened to the notion of the library as a quiet place to read and study? 

"No one expects this to be a quiet place. If it is going to be welcoming to children you can't have silence," said Andrea Vaughn, the Coordinator of the Central Library's Youth Services at the library. Vaughn believes that a library should be a welcoming gathering place for the community and does not think that her library should be regarded as a silent reading room. 

Vaughn has been with the Central branch for three and a half years though she has been a librarian for 12, first in Long Island and then in Queens. The children's wing, especially after three o'clock when school is out, will always be a lively area, but Vaughn says that the rest of the library is not bound to silence either. 

There are 114 public access computers throughout the Central branch, a Tech Loft with 36 teen designated computers, and private meeting rooms for events such as a knitting group and, recently, a staff baby shower.

With the exception of the third floor Arts and Music section which is nearly always quiet due to its location, the rest of the library is bustling. In Vaughn's opinion, the library serves as a much needed community center where people can come use the free internet, attend a free workshop, work on a resume and teens can connect to an increasingly important social network. 

Though, of course, the library is still a place for reading and studying, and a delicate balance has to be maintained.

"Our librarians or the security officers will ask patrons who are disruptive to keep it down. It's a balance between welcoming young people and groups, and also providing an environment conducive to reading and learning," Vaughn said.

For those looking for quiet, it might be worth the walk to the Pacific Library, on Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street.

Besides occasional shrieks of laughter coming from the kids room and a heavy front door hitting its frame from time to time, this branch is generally quieter than the Central Branch. Patrons clack away at the keyboards of computes tucked between shelves in the semi-circular main room, making it look as though the library is empty.

Corey Caine, the library circulation supervisor at the Pacific Branch, where he has been for nearly two years now, says that his library serves multiple purposes, "it's like a second home for some and a community center for others." Caine, who noted a significant jump in library users when the Park Slope branch closed, said that library users needed to be open minded about the noise level in the library because with kids and foot traffic, there will always be some bustle. "They should always expect to hear a certain level of noise," said Caine. 

The idea that a library is a quiet space to read is not a new or unfounded concept. However, each library serves its community differently and with many families in Park Slope depending on them, the Central and Pacific libraries are people friendly places. 

Still, Vaughn knows that libraries are generally thought of as silent zones, "I don't know that we'll ever lose that stereotype," she said. 

courtesy: http://prospectheights.patch.com/articles/at-the-brooklyn-central-library-noise-is-golden

May 04

They have always had a dusty image – and never more so than now – but libraries are at the heart of our communities. With the axe about to fall, Bella Bathurst reveals just what we're about to lose

Between the lines: a reader at the British Museum library in 1952 Photograph: Bert Hardy/Getty

You can tell a lot about people from the kind of books they steal. Every year, the public library service brings out a new batch of statistics on their most-pilfered novelists – Martina Cole, James Patterson, Jacqueline WilsonJK Rowling. But in practice, different parts of Britain favour different books. Worksop likes antiques guides and hip-hop biographies. Brent prefers books on accountancy and nursing, or the driving theory test. Swansea gets through a lot of copies of the UK Citizenship Test. In Barnsley, it's Mig welding and tattoos ("I've still no idea what Mig welding is," says Ian Stringer, retired mobile librarian for the area. "The books always got taken before I could find out.") And Marylebone Library in London has achieved a rare equality. Their most stolen items are The Jewish Chronicle, Arabic newspapers and the Bible.

But the figures show something else as well – that among all communities and in all parts of Britain, our old passion for self-improvement remains vivid. Unlike DVDs or CDs or Xbox games, books removed from publiclibraries have no resale value. Unless they're very rare or very specialist, even hardbacks aren't worth anything anymore. So the only reason to take books is to read them.

Even so, theft remains a sensitive subject. "If someone suggested the idea of public libraries now, they'd be considered insane," says Peter Collins, library services manager in Worksop. "If you said you were going to take a little bit of money from every taxpayer, buy a whole load of books and music and games, stick them on a shelf and tell everyone, 'These are yours to borrow and all you've got to do is bring them back,' they'd be laughed out of government." But theft – or loss, or forgetting – is not a new thing. During the 1930s, supposedly a far more upright age, 8.8m books vanished from the library system every year.

There are 4,500 public libraries in Britain, as well as almost 1,000 national and academic libraries. As local authority budgets are reduced by the government's cuts, up to 500 libraries around the country will have to close. Librarians – traditionally seen as a mild, herbivorous breed – are up in arms. Partly because public libraries are often seen as a soft target; partly because they say local authorities consistently undervalue the breadth of what they do; and partly because the cutting will be done during a recession, which is exactly when everyone starts going to the library again.

But the cuts also underscore a deeper confusion about what libraries are: what they do, who they serve, and – in an age where the notion of books itself seems mortally flawed – why we still need them. What's the point of buildings filled with print? Isn't all our wisdom electronic now? Shouldn't libraries die at their appointed time, like workhouses and temperance halls?

The old clichés do not help the cause, given that libraries are meant to be austere places smelling of "damp gabardine and luncheon meat", as Victoria Wood put it, and librarians are either diffident, mole-eyed types or disappointed spinsters of limited social skills who spend their time blacking out the racing pages and razoring Page 3.

In Worksop, Peter Collins radiates a love both of libraries and for the infinite variety of people who use them. He's 33 and "always defined myself by being a librarian. I'd say to girls: 'Guess what I do for a living?' Admittedly, they were the kind of girls who might be impressed when I told them I had an MA in librarianship, but I was just so proud of it, so in love with what I did. When I first met my future wife, she got a tirade about the magic of libraries."

Collins believes that libraries are just as vital now as they were during the 40s, when Philip Larkin complained of stamping out so many books in a week that his hand blistered. Even so, he spends much of his time in a ceaseless game of catch-up. "Libraries are always trying to prove themselves because what they provide is so intangible. How do you quantify what someone gets from a book or a magazine?"

Attempts to do so often end up in trouble. "The council once asked us for an assessment of outcomes, not output," says Ian Stringer. "Output was how many books we'd stamped out, and outcome was something that had actually resulted from someone borrowing a book. So say someone took out a book on mending cars and then drove the car back, that's an outcome; or made a batch of scones from a recipe book they had borrowed. It lasted until one of the librarians told the council they'd had someone in borrowing a book on suicide, but that they'd never brought it back. The council stopped asking after that."

The great untold truth of libraries is that people need them not because they're about study and solitude, but because they're about connection. Some sense of their emotional value is given by the writer Mavis Cheek, who ran workshops within both Holloway and Erlestoke prisons. At Erlestoke she had groups of eight men who so enjoyed the freedom and contact of the writing groups they ended up breaking into the prison library when they found it shut one day. Which authors did they like best? "Graham Greene," says Cheek. "All that adventure and penance. His stuff moves fast, it's spare and it's direct."

Greene might seem a surprising choice, but then what people choose to read in extremis often is. In London during the Second World War, some authorities established small collections of books in air-raid shelters. The unused Tube station at Bethnal Green had a library of 4,000 volumes and a nightly clientele of 6,000 people. And what those wartime readers chose were not practical how-to manuals on sewing or home repairs, butphilosophy. Plato and his Republic experienced a sudden surge in popularity, as did Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, Bunyan and Burton'sAnatomy of Melancholy.

Ian Stringer worked in Barnsley just after the 1980s miners' strike. "Library issues doubled during the strike, they were the highest they've ever been. A lot of ex-miners wanted books on law because they wanted to challenge the legality of what the government was doing. Or they needed practical self-help stuff like books on growing your own, or just pure escapism." The same thing is happening now.

Paul Forrest used to go out with the mobile library around the deprived areas of Edmonton, north London. "It was quite shocking how isolated people are sometimes. At times, books or talking books are the only connection to the world they've got. And the mobile librarians really know their customers' interests – not just that they like romances, for instance, but romances with a bit of spice, not too much sex, a bit of history. Those books are almost a form of medication; I reckon we save the NHS a fortune in antidepressants."

For many years, Ian Stringer worked on Barnsley's mobile libraries. So potent was the South Yorkshire service that at one point during the 1980s, "we had four couples leaving their spouses for each other. We ended up calling it the Mile Out Club." What was going on? "I think it's because you used to have two people going out, usually a man and a woman, in the van sometimes for nine hours at a stretch. Often it would be an older man and a younger woman, and I reckon some of the younger women had married young, and this was the first chance for them to see what an older man could be like. And some of the spots they'd get out to, like the farms, they'd be quite secluded. Not that anyone ever delayed the service, of course." By the time the fourth couple got together, the erotic charge of the vans had grown so great that "all the relatives ended up having a fight on the loading bay, everyone pitching in, all chucking boxes of library tickets at each other".

Inevitably, libraries are also used as a refuge by many who never had any intention of mugging up on the latest literary prize shortlist. It's an odd thing that libraries – by tradition temples to the unfleshly – can sometimes seem such sexy places. Perhaps it's their churchiness or the deep, soft silence produced by so many layers of print, or simply the hiding places provided by the shelves. "There's a big following on the internet for sites on librarians and people with library fetishes," says Kerry Pillai, manager of Swansea library. "I don't know why. But we do have a lot of attractive staff here." Has she ever been approached? "I did get sniffed once," she says. "In the lifts."

"In the 60s, before the Lady Chatterley trial," says Ian Stringer, "you used to get block books – literally, wooden blocks in place of any books the librarians thought were a bit risqué, like Last Exit to Brooklyn. You had to bring the block to the counter and then they'd give you the book from under the desk. So of course you got a certain type of person just going round looking for the wooden blocks."

There are other uses for libraries. In Marylebone they take a lenient view of sleepers. "As long as they're vertical, it's all right," says Nicky Smith, senior librarian. "If they're horizontal or snoring, then we wake them up. Mind you," she adds cheerily, "we were always told to wake people well before closing time, because if they turn out to be dead, then you won't get home before midnight." Marylebone has particular cause to be vigilant; it has the unusual distinction of being one of the few libraries in Britain where someone has actually died. Edgar Lustgarten was well known as a TV personality during the 50s and 60s. He presented an early version of Crimewatch, talking the viewers through the topical murder- mysteries of the day. On 15 December 1978, he went to the library as usual and was found some time later, dead at his desk. What had he been doing? "Reading the Spectator."

Worksop has a resident book-eater. "We kept noticing that pages had been ripped from some of the books," says Peter Collins. "Not whole pages, just little bits. It would always be done really neatly, just the tops of the pages. And then we'd see these little pellets everywhere, little balls of chewed paper cropping up in different parts of the library. Eventually we figured out who it must be. None of us wanted to say we'd noticed him munching away at the books, so I approached him and said something like I'd noticed 'tearing' on some volumes. He said he didn't know anything about it, but we've never seen him back."

"And we had a streaker once," Collins continues. "In Tamworth. He got into the lifts, and somewhere between the first and second floors he managed to take off all his clothes, run naked through Music and Junior, and then vanish out the front doors. The library there is right next to a graveyard, so goodness only knows what happened to him. Still, all part of life's rich tapestry."

He says that reading seems to be becoming an increasingly alien concept for children. "The pace of life is different now, and people expect art to happen to them. Music and film do that, a CD will do that, but you have to make a book happen to you. It's between you and it. People can be changed by books, and that's scary. When I was working in the school library, I'd sometimes put a book in a kid's hands and I'd feel excited for them, because I knew that it might be the book that changed their life. And once in a while, you'd see that happen, you'd see a kind of light come on behind their eyes. Even if it's something like 0.4% of the population that that ever happens to, it's got to be worth it, hasn't it?"

The libraries' most powerful asset is the conversation they provide – between books and readers, between children and parents, between individuals and the collective world. Take them away and those voices turn inwards or vanish. Turns out that libraries have nothing at all to do with silence.

Courtesy: http://www.guardian.co.uk/

May 05

Library of Congress


The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and number of books. The head of the Library is the Librarian of Congress, currently James H. Billing ton.

The Library of Congress was built by Congress in 1800, and was housed in the United States Capitol for most of the 19th century. After much of the original collection had been destroyed during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson sold 6,487 books, his entire personal collection, to the library in 1815. After a period of decline during the mid-19th century the Library of Congress began to grow rapidly in both size and importance after the American Civil War, culminating in the construction of a separate library building and the transference of all copyright deposit holdings to the Library. During the rapid expansion of the 20th century the Library of Congress assumed a preeminent public role, becoming a "library of last resort" and expanding its mission for the benefit of scholars and the American people.

The Library's primary mission is researching inquiries made by members of Congress through the Congressional Research Service. Although it is open to the public, only Members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and other high-ranking government officials may check out books. As the de facto national library, the Library of Congress promotes literacy and American literature through projects such as the American Folklife Center, American Memory, Center for the Book and Poet Laureate.

Aug 24

There is a teen lounge with Xbox gaming consoles and a big-screen TV, complete with chairs that look like oversized hammocks to accommodate the favoured semi-sprawl of the adolescent set.

In another area, a seniors’ lounge with more traditional furniture next to a fireplace. A coffee shop. A long countertop for people who want to plug in their laptops.

Oh yes, and books.

After all, this is a library – Surrey’s new central library, to be precise. But its 150,000 books will take up just half of the available space, the most obvious sign of the accelerating transformation of the library in the 21st century.

“Libraries are not book warehouses anymore, they are active places to find inspiration or knowledge,” says Surrey’s chief librarian, Beth Barlow. As a result, Surrey’s new library, slated to open next month, has scampered even further down the path that many public libraries have headed toward in recent years: community meeting ground and social hub.

“It’s becoming that third place,” says Ms. Barlow’s deputy, Melanie Houlden, talking about the idea popularized by American writer Ray Oldenburg. His 1989 book The Great Good Place argued that “third places” – cafés, barber shops and bookstores, where people gather and talk separate from where they live or where they work – are the foundations of civil society.

Surrey is not alone in that focus on giving less space to books. Diana Guinn, the Vancouver Public Library’s director of neighbourhood and youth resources, says the new Riley Park Library, at the former Olympic curling rink, had more people-space built in than previous branches. The future Strathcona branch, just being planned now, will have more, including a “living room” for people to sit and read. “We’re trying to make sure that people have enough space just to hang out.”

All this sounds lovely, but poses the question for librarians, library users and the people who design the spaces for this place that also has books: what is a library? Is it a place to take out War and Peace? Or a place to entice teenagers with World of Warcraft, in the hopes they’ll move on to Tolstoy?

There has always been a tension about the function of libraries, says Eric Meyers, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of library, archival and information studies. Some have seen libraries mainly as book depositories, the places that preserve print, much as medieval monks preserved manuscripts for hundreds of years from the Greek and Roman classical eras – a dedicated act of curation that eventually gave birth to the Renaissance. Others have seen them primarily as places that teach people how to access information.

The Internet and Google have shifted the balance. “What has brought the debate to the fore is the plethora of information people can get outside the library,” says Mr. Meyers. “It put the libraries back on their heels and they were forced to re-envision themselves.”

If information is everywhere, then the library’s function as a community centre and “knowledge-building space” has become the unique thing it could offer.

Chapters, with its comfy chairs and compelling book displays, was another prod to librarians about the possibilities for luring people to books, adds Ms. Houlden.

That doesn’t make everyone happy. People from American writer Nicholson Baker to local book lovers have been outraged at the way libraries have dumped – often literally – large collections of newspapers, journals and books that simply hadn’t been taken out for a while to make room for hanging-out space, video-game collections, and computer stations. (The Vancouver Public Library got rid of 128,000 print items in 2010.)

Mr. Meyers, a self-confessed lover of books on paper, says the trick for libraries is to figure out which print resources their community is using heavily, and to stock those, while ensuring that less-used but still valuable books and journals are preserved at one institution that is available to all. “What you decide to stock shouldn’t just be based on ‘I love to see books on bookshelves.’”

That has changed budgets. In Vancouver, only $2.5-million was spent on print materials in 2010 out of a total materials budget of $4.8-million. Surrey spent about 12 per cent of its $2.1-million materials budget on electronic resources.

The librarian’s role has changed less than that of the library. “Think of us as knowledge and information curators – we bring together the best resources from across all dissemination platforms together for our patrons,” says Ms. Guinn.

At public libraries everywhere, that’s meant a new focus on teaching new groups of users – immigrants, homeless people, teenagers, seniors – not just how to find a print volume, but how to work with all the different kinds of technology to find the most reliable information on the Internet, download a book remotely to their e-readers, and get children excited about reading.

For Bing Thom, designing the new Surrey library with all of those requirements meant thinking about what the core function of a library is. So, although he incorporated many social spaces, his design reinforced what he believes is that essence.

To reinforce the idea that the library is not just another community centre or coffee shop with a lot of laptop workers, he created grand, airy spaces that reinforces a sense of sacredness, with light slanting in obliquely to create an “internal lightbox.” He also insisted that it be painted white, a soothing colour but one that demands care (and which maintenance departments typically hate).

“I truly believe they are the new cathedrals. Libraries are changing, but what doesn’t change is that sense of sanctuary,” says Mr. Thom. “It’s a social space, but it’s also a psychological place where there’s a kind of relaxed tension. You’re working with other people who are also working, so you are kind of inspired by them. There’s no other civic space like it.”

Courtesy: http://www.theglobeandmail.com

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