Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do We Still Need a New Library?

A town resident recently sent me a copy of the Boston Globe article on Cushing Academy’s decision to have a “bookless’ library.  The writer questioned whether we shouldn’t rethink our request for a new library.  This is my reply:

“The Board of Library Trustees and I do not feel this particular school decision changes the need for a new public library in Westwood.  While it raises many interesting issues, these are the important points to consider: 

· The community’s need for public library services is substantially different than the need for library services in a private school with 450 students.

· School libraries provide resources that support the institution’s curriculum.

· The resources of public libraries are much broader in scope and are intended to serve the recreational and educational needs of its community.  The range of people that uses a public library is far greater and more varied in both age and need.

· It is certainly true that the printed book is in transition with possible alternatives on the horizon, but no real outcome yet.  The library already has books in these non-print audio formats: compact disk, MP3, audio-cassette (likely to be phased out), and soon remote (i.e. from your home) downloadable audio.

· In towns like Westwood, the public library serves as a community center, which often has little to do with library materials, print or otherwise.

· The library provides meeting space for community groups or study space for individuals; an Internet access point; a clearinghouse for community information, and a place for discussion on issues affecting the town and its residents.

· Our participation in the Minuteman Library Network will enable us to take advantage of the emerging technologies that will shape the future of information.  Because we have regionalized our underlying service and support systems, Westwood is uniquely positioned to utilize the new services and formats that will undoubtedly emerge.

· A free public library has great value to our way of life and system of government.  A private school is limited to a select group of people.

I do not know how successful Cushing Academy will be in their switch to a “bookless” library.  But I can promise you that those students who need a book will be coming to their local public library.  I would be happy to discuss this question with you at any time.

Tom Viti, Library Director”

To read the Boston Globe article regarding Cushing Academy’s decision to have a “bookless” library

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