I find it strangely comforting that there has been so much public outcry over the budgetary cuts looming over Chicago Public Libraries. Considering the economic state of the country, it seems that having a place that offers free classes, books, movies, music, and technological access would be an asset of increasing value. Happily, Chicagoans seem to think so, too; however, while Rahm Emanuel has responded to the protestations, the reduced budget cuts are still severe and will result in over 180 jobs lost and truncated hours of operation. An NPR piece this week, “Morning library-goers lose in budget plan,” included several testimonials on how these cuts will be felt throughout the city.
So, what exactly do I find comforting in all this? People still love and need libraries. In today’s digital climate, there is perpetual concern within the profession over how to keep libraries relevant. More and more libraries are making their holdings available online and trying to make their catalogues user-friendly with appealing interfaces; and while they aren’t to Google or Amazon standards yet, they are trying. Most let you check out e-books and download audio books, but a growing number (with healthy budgets) loan out e-readers themselves. I’ve put a list below of a few of these pioneers. A few, including Chicago’s Oak Park Public Library, are even developing their own Apps. I’ve only been in library school for a semester, but I’ve been impressed to see how much librarians care about getting people the information they need in the most suitable fashion, be it a print volume or electronic publication.
This brings me to my current issue with Amazon: the Kindle Lending Library. This new service allows Kindle-owning, Amazon Prime members the privilege of “borrowing” an e-book a month for free. The exclusivity and profit-seeking spirit behind this makes me furious. It goes against everything a library should be. Amazon exists for its own glory and only begrudgingly bows to demand asking for increased accessibility, if it bows at all. It doesn’t care about the book industry or libraries. It’s the country club of the literary world, where if you’re not sporting the brand of e-reader. Not only do you have to own a Kindle, you must pay the annual $79 Prime membership fee. That they’ve usurped the name library for their money-grubbing purposes is fairly brazen, seeing as libraries are about freedom of information and equal access.
Oops! There I go…
Yes, that’s a box of soap. It’s the closest thing I had.
Reddick Public Library District in Illinois
Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado
Bluford Library in North Carolina
Calvert Library in Maryland
Top 30 Library iPhone Apps: I’m linking you to the link in the Librarian in Black’s blog post rather than directly to Ellyssa Kroski’s list because TLB’s rant on Apple pairs so well with mine on Amazon.
Nation Library of Medicine: “Show Off Your Apps” winners
The British Library: Manuscript Images and Curator Videos