Contrary to popular opinion the internet and cell phones have not relegated libraries to “relic” status. Instead, this modern technology can give them a new lease on life … a new mission for those who choose to accept it, if you will.
Yes it’s true. Thanks to Detroit’s strapped financial condition a number of neighborhood libraries are closing but Jo Anne Mondowney, executive director of the Detroit Public Library, has a plan. She wants to take the library to the neighborhoods … virtually. Thanks to the modern technology so many thought would render libraries insignificant she has the means to create an electronic book mobile. She just needs funding to get it done.
“Our neighborhoods have a passion for the libraries,” she says, emphasizing that no one wanted to close the libraries and that the Detroit Public Library is doing all in its power to fill the gap.
Here’s how the program would work.
If you’re old enough to remember ordering books from the Scholastic Magazine and then waiting excitedly for a few weeks to get them her plan will ring a bell. Students will be able use the computers at their schools to borrow books from the Detroit Public Library. The library will send the books to the schools and the schools will send them back. Or, if the student has an iPad, iPhone or Kindle, the books could be downloaded. Books can be checked out for three weeks. Yes, Virginia, there will be still fines if the books are late.
There is a catch. They have to work out how many licenses the library has for each book before the program could into effect. Mondowney is on it and is working with organizations such as Random House to find a solution. “We need to work it out like Apple did with streaming music … or like Amazon did,” she says” Amazon was an early adapter for books on line.
“We can promote reading like never before,” she says.”We cannot do things the old way. We must look at how things are packaged for this generation.”
The idea comes from a similar program called Limitless Libraries in Nashville. When the program was fully implemented in all district high schools there circulation increased by 125 percent during the 2010-2011 school year, making an extensive collection of 1.5 million items and all the resources of the Nashville Public Library available to faculty and students.
“As a child, if the library by me would have closed my life would be been diminished. I was introduced to such heroines as Anne Frank,” she says. “The library is the biggest treasure we have. It is like winning the lottery.”
As Lady Bird Johnson once said “Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.” Detroit’s neighborhoods have that interest.
Photos by Karpov the Wrecked Train