Article in the Chicago Sun-Times sees libraries responding to changing times

A recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times and a followup editorial focused on how libraries are responding to changing times.

A Harold Washington Library Center YOUmedia student holds up a length of chain created with the Maker Bot

A Harold Washington Library Center YOUmedia student holds up a length of chain created with the Maker Bot. Photo from YouMedia @ Chicago Public Library


In the article from June 1, Steinberg showed how libraries helped one man who uses the Glenview Public Library in suburban Chicago to search for a job after losing one he had for 22 years.

Steinberg wrote, “Times are changing in America, and if you want to see an institution trying to change with them, using every technological and conceptual tool it can, look no further than your local public library .”

American Library Association (ALA) President Maureen Sullivan is quoted in the piece, commenting on the vast changes in the ways that libraries serve the public.

She said, “‘It is a most exciting time for libraries ,” adding that, “Books are still important, but libraries are also delivering content and experiences to their communities in new, very different and exciting ways.’”

Steinberg focused on the library as a community center and business hub,” writing, “Arlington Heights Memorial Library just finished a $2.8 million renovation, expanding from four study rooms to 14, the biggest large enough for board meetings. One local nonprofit convenes its board there.

“’We were having to turn people away,’” said Jason Kuhl, executive director of the library . “’They were originally study rooms, but what we were finding, there were more businesspeople coming in and using them.’”

In the article, Deb Whisler, Arlington Heights’ director of communications and marketing, also said that the library has 40-to-60 tech classes and a digital studio where business people create their own videos.

Steinberg also noted how libraries have beefed up youth services, “trying to offer cool spaces for kids to hang out, play games, and, occasionally, study.

“The Chicago Public Library started its YOUmedia program three years ago.

“’It challenges your assumptions about what a library ought to look like [with] a crowd of kids, playing video games, eating lunch,’” said Brian Bannon, commissioner of the Chicago Public Library . “’But it’s a fully engaged, interactive learning environment that connects kids through their interests to opportunities to learn.’”

In the editorial, which appeared June 3, it said, “Not so long ago, we thought libraries were doomed.

“Libraries were about books, and it didn’t take an Einstein to see that books were on life support. Books were paper and the world was going digital. Even when people read books in the future, they would read ebooks, and who needs a bunch of shelves for that?

“How wrong we were. And what an inspiring example libraries are setting for those of us in other professions — the media, the entertainment business, the law, the financial markets, the you-name-it — being turned upside down by technological change.”

It continued, “the best libraries are centers of a new cultural flowering in which ever-changing new technology is less a threat than an opportunity.

“Libraries are where folks go to search online for jobs, where kids hang out after school and play games (and sometimes study), where artists display their work, where book clubs and community groups meet, where college study groups bend over laptops and books in soundproof rooms, where (in the case of the Harold Washington Library in Chicago) you can slip into another room at lunchtime and play the piano or practice the violin, where folks take classes in tech instruction for, say, Twitter or Pinterest, where businesses make professional-quality videos, and where you can still get books, paper format optional.”


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