Here's an example of where libraries are still very useful, for now.

I work in Bedford Hills, NY. On nice days, I like to put on my iPod and take a brisk walk around 
town at lunchtime. I like to look around at the old houses and once in a while notice something 
interesting, one being a horse trough with a memorial inscription in a stone wall that surrounds a 
church. Now, where else except the Bedford Hills library am I likely to find out the story behind 
that memorial? Turns out they have a whole Bedford/Bedford Hills/Westchester County area with a nice 
little table on which to read the books. Most of these books and documents are one-offs and don't 
circulate. The librarian was so excited that someone wanted to learn something about the little 
hamlet that she helped me zero in on the info in just a few minutes. It's an interesting story of 
robbery foiled and an upstanding citizen murdered but I forgot the exact details so don't want to do 
any myth-making here.

Point is, no place but the Bedford Hills library is going to have that info. This whole idea of "all 
information being online" is only true to a point. I find that there is a lot of common knowledge 
easily accessible online, and a whole sewer/slum of myths, rumors and garbage (I had to do massive 
corrections to a few entries on Whacky Packia, so I do not trust anything there or on anything like 
it) and some obscure academic materials. But I am dismayed about what's NOT up there. Stuff like 
local news (except what's in the local crapola Gannett newspaper), local history. There are vast 
holes in historic audio and documents (part of this is the seeming obsession by some collection 
holders to just, well, hold on to things instead of make things available to us unwashed masses -- I 
can cite MANY museums, libraries and academic archives; all I can figure is that it's a power thing: 
"I and only I hold this material and you'll only use it on my very restrictive terms").

Another library example that just popped into my mind is the downstairs of the Saranac Lake 
library -- a huge collection of all things Adirondacks. I've spent several rainy days in there, 
completely engrossed.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Karl Miller" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2006 11:18 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Zits cartoon strip

> On Thu, 23 Mar 2006, vdalhart wrote:
>>     I use the library regularly.  I still read books.  In fact I have books
>> in almost every room in the house.  I also read a newspaper every day!  Am I
>> that old fashioned?  Jack
> I think about the time it takes to go to the library (and I work in a
> libary), try looking something up (I believe library catalogs were
> designed by librarians for librarians and after 25 years of being a
> librarian I still have problems finding what I am looking for) then going
> to the shelf and taking it down to the circulation desk (assuming it is on
> the shelf where it should be) checking it out and returning it.
> Granted, you might find something else of interest on the shelf next to
> the book you were looking for...I figure my time is worth $50 an hour to me...
> my employer of course, does not agree...however...I value my free time...if I
> can sit at home (while listening to music), find a book at some online
> dealer and purchase it in less than five minutes, I am saving money.
> A friend of mine used to go the library once a week.
> He would check out a stack of discs, take them home,
> copy them, make color copies of the covers, catalog his copy and add
> them to his collection. When he figured out he could download what he wanted
> for next to nothing, or record things via the internet radio for free and
> store them digitally, he realized his old way of doing things was not very
> productive...the illegality of his old ways didn't seem to bother him
> much.
> As for the newspaper...
> For me, libraries lost it when they forgot that their main value lies in
> providing access to information that can't be found elsewhere...or for
> less of an investment in time/money. True, libraries are there to provide
> free access to those who can't afford any other source for information,
> but, I wonder if we shouldn't have information stamps/credit like we have
> food stamps/credit for those on low incomes.
> Karl (who works in a libary system with over 5Million items and hasn't
> checked out anything in at least three years)