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.
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.
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.
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.”