New Resources In The Public Library

Public libraries have adapted to change: TV's, VCR's, computers, new resources available to kids and adults like never before.

Television, VCRs, the Internet: knowledge at our fingertips, a world of knowledge right under our own rooftops. This may suggest books are going the way of the dinosaur and public libraries becoming little more than tar pits.

Yet, not many libraries are reporting declines in traffic or lending. Many public libraries have adapted to changing interests and communications technology. Many of these changes are directly focused to attract and hold the attention of youngsters.

Lending materials have diversified. Along with books, lenders can now borrow cassette tapes, CD's, and videos. Sometimes small fees are required, but more often are free. Among these, children's materials are usually extensive, dovetailing closely to books and magazines available in the children's and teen sections, and, not surprisingly, to currently popular TV programming.

During morning hours, many libraries teem with pre-schoolers, drawn to structured story-telling, sing alongs, and crafts sessions. These are followed by forays into children's reading sections, now sometimes taking up an entire floor of a library. These sections also feature corners for reading at pint-size tables or playing at dexterity games or with favored stuffed animals. No admonishments for "Silence!" here from stern-faced spinster librarians. Here, instead, is color,play, noise, and, best of all, hands-on intimacy with familiar books.

As the pre-schoolers pile into their buggies and strollers, home bound for lunch and a nap, adults begin filling the vacuum. Foreign language, audios for the hearing impaired, and large-print book sections have expanded over recent years. Nor have reference sections remained static. They have expanded in quantum fashion by libraries equipping with computers for internet access, rows of them.

From mid-afternoon onward into the evening young people are back. They're there to research school projects and term papers, cram for tests, check out new video and CD acquisitions. The computers stations are booked solid. Study areas, laid out specially for group work, are full, the tables piled with books, papers, and school bags.

The computers no long just provide holdings directories; those are separate. Now many are work stations with free internet access for raw research. The video collections are partly for entertainment; however, laced liberally through the collections are curriculum-related movies and

shorts. Same for the CD and cassette collections.

All of these ultimately lead users back into the stacks to what libraries are supposedly all about, the books. And it works!

Seven P.M. rolls around. Out in the library foyer two lines have formed near meting room doors. In one room, a local poet is scheduled to read from her latest book. In another, a workshop is to be conducted, called "Understanding Shakespeare." More than half the waiting people are teenagers. Recognizable, as well, are some of the parents who were there earlier with their pre-schoolers.

There is no question, public libraries are adapting to the enormous changes afoot. Check it out!

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