Libraries

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Take a book. Leave a book.

This is the simple idea behind the Little Free Library movement.

It was launched in 2009 in Madison, Wisconsin. In just a few short years, the movement spread to the point where today there are thousands and thousands of Little Free Libraries all over the world.

Now the Little Free Library movement is taking root in Detroit.

Yuba College Public Space / Flickr

Think back to the last time you visited your local library. Did you check out a new best-selling book? Borrow a DVD? Meet your study group? Look something up in the reference section?

Since the early 20th Century, libraries have been a fundamental piece of the services people expect from their cities or counties.

But the library we grew up with is changing. The way we interact with the library and the services it offers is also changing.

With new technologies changing the way we access information, we wondered: what does the future hold for libraries?

Joseph Janes, the Chair of Library and Information Science at the University of Washington and the Founding Director of the Internet Public Library joined us along with David Votta, the Community Engagement Library at Midwest Collaborative for Library Services to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

A group of Democratic Senators in Lansing have proposed a package of bills dealing with marriage equality. We spoke with state Senator Rebekah Warren about why she thinks now is the time to bring up these measures.

And, the library you may have grown up with is changing. We took a look at the new technologies changing the way we access information and what that means for the future of libraries in Michigan.

Also, Michigan gas prices are now the second-highest in the country. Patrick DeHaan, a Senior Petroleum Analyst, spoke with us about how this happened.

First on the show, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow suspicion-based drug testing as a condition of welfare in Michigan. People on cash assistance could lose their benefits if they test positive for an illegal substance.

As Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher reported, it’s not clear how the bill would affect medical marijuana patients.

Stateside: Old news put to good use

Nov 13, 2012
T. Voekler

Retired newspapers are finding a new purpose.

Old News, a project started by the Ann Arbor District Library, archives previously published news items throughout Washtenaw County.

Eli Neiburger works for the AADL, and works primarily on the Old News project.

"Libraries are service industries and we want to help people," said Neiburger.

Old News functions as a resource for anyone curious about past news items and family lineage.

"Our goal is to get people the answers to the questions of their own history," said Neiburger.

For more on Old News, listen to the above podcast.

KN

The Ann Arbor District is thinking outside of the box with a new collection called "Music Tools."

The small collection features quirky instruments and sound processors. It includes items with futuristic names that make sounds like hovering spaceships and funky clicks and clacks.

The Ann Arbor District Library wants a new building downtown.
AADL / Facebook

Ann Arbor residents can add a new tax levy to the growing list of issues on the November ballot.

The local library board wants $65 million for a new downtown building.

After 60 years, the Ann Arbor library's main branch has done its job, according to the board. 

But now they say they're running out of space, so they want to tear down and rebuild on the same site.

The plan would mean a 30-year tax hike. It would add roughly $54 dollars to the annual tax bill of anyone with a home worth $200,000.

If residents vote no, it would be the first time in 20 years the town's rejected a tax increase for the library.

Brian Short / Michigan Radio

Urban neighborhood libraries are on the decline.

Detroit, Flint, Dearborn and other cities have recently had to close some of their library branches in order to save money, which means access to free computers and computer training is becoming more limited.

On today's Artpod, we'll visit a group that's working to close the digital divide.

Brian Short / Michigan Radio

Urban neighborhood libraries are on the decline.

Detroit, Flint, Dearborn and other cities have recently had to close some of their library branches in order to save money, which means access to free computers and computer training is becoming more limited.

But in Detroit, there’s a group working to close the digital divide.

Discothèque vs. Discotech

This story takes place at a "discotech."

Not the kind of discotheque where you flaunt your best dance moves in platform shoes, but the kind of discotech where Google, Twitter and Facebook are center stage.

Here, discotech stands for DISCOvering TECHnology.

It's a traveling technology workshop that looks a lot like a pop-up science fair, with laptops, poster boards, wires and circuits all around the room.

Diana Nucera, one of the Discotech organizers, says the event is about "showing the possibility of technology to make our personal connections stronger."

Yuba College Public Space / Flickr

Protesters in Detroit hope that staking out a recently-shuttered library branch will convince officials to re-open it.

Four Detroit library branches--Lincoln, Monteith, Mark Twain, and Richard--closed their doors for good just before Christmas.

But library defenders say they’ll stake out the Lincoln branch library, and try to stop any efforts to remove the library’s inventory.

Shanta Driver is with the activist group By Any Means Necessary, which organized the effort. She says neighbors are watching the library, and they’ve organized a phone tree to bring in enough people to surround the library if and when moving trucks show up.

 “There’s so many people in the neighborhood who have been watching, and just keeping tabs on what’s going on here, that I think we can be here,” Driver says.

BAMN and other library advocates say the branches are a vital resource in their neighborhoods, and closing them would deal a devastating blow.

Detroit Public Library officials say it’s a necessary move to cut costs in the face of declining revenues, and cover staff shortages.

Detroit Public Library

Four branches of the Detroit Public Library system will shut their doors for good this week.

Library officials say it’s just a reflection of fiscal reality. But that’s cold comfort to Detroiters who will lose their neighborhood branches.

One of those branches is the Monteith library, on the city’s far east side. Residents there say their library is one of the last community institutions they have left—and shuttering it will be a devastating blow.

Yuba College Public Space / Flickr

Four branches of the Detroit Public Library system will close this week, despite a last-minute push to keep them open.

Supporters of the four branches packed the Detroit Library Commission meeting Tuesday.

The Commission actually voted to close the libraries last month. But library advocates were hoping Commissioners would issue them a temporary reprieve, so they could try and raise money to keep the branches open.

But Commissioners refused to move the issue, meaning the branches will close as scheduled on December 22.

Flickr/lavocado

One Michigan library wants to help clear up the confusion many people have about the legal issues concerning medical marijuana.

Detroit Public Libraries

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported last February, "libraries face a tough paradox.  People tend to use them more when the economy is bad. But a bad economy also means they get fewer resources to work with."

Cwiek was reporting on the Detroit public library system which at the time was facing a $17 million budget shortfall.

This past spring, the city proposed closing 18 libraries, but then backed away from that proposal.

Staffing cuts were made, and now, according to the Detroit News, the city is proposing to close six of its 23 libraries because the "layoffs of about 40 staffers in spring hurt service and forced some branches to temporarily close on some days."

The News visited one library slated for closure and talked to people there:

Erin Carter...searches for jobs using computers at the Chase branch in northwest Detroit that is recommended for closure.

"There is so much stuff closing down," said Carter, 22. "I don't know where to go."

The small library at Seven Mile and Southfield Freeway was packed Tuesday afternoon and every computer was in use. Fifteen-year-old Brandon Thomas and his neighbor, 12-year-old Kalan Lewis, rode their bikes to the library for the first time Wednesday to pick up some books and look for the Civil War movie, "Glory."

"They shouldn't close it," Kalan said. "It's for kids. We need to be able to learn what we don't learn in school."

The libraries on the list for potential closure:

Michigan boasts plenty of summer festivals celebrating fruit, vegetables, music, and food.  But there’s a relatively new festival that pays homage to the creation of comics.

The third annual “Kids Read Comics” festival happens this weekend in downtown Chelsea, west of Ann Arbor. It features workshops with names like “Make Your Life Into a Comic” and “Nobody Likes a Boring Story.”

Niala Boodhoo / Changing Gears

What happens when your local library shuts its doors? That’s a question Midwestern towns from Evanston, Ill., to Troy, Mich., are asking as local libraries are targeted in budget cuts.

I went to Northwest Indiana, where the Gary Library Board has just decided to close its main branch, to find out the impact on a local community.

Gary has five library branches. The other four have names, like Kennedy, or Du Bois. This one is simply called the "main library."

Predicting the future can be a dangerous thing. When I was a child in the early nineteen-sixties, I used to watch a television show that predicted how we’d live in the far-off world of 2000.

By then, I was told, our homes would be heated by mini-nuclear power plants in the basement and we’d take our private helicopters to work. Nobody, however, saw the coming of the Internet.

Futurologists have gotten somewhat more cautious since then, but there is something most of them do agree on, which is that days are numbered for libraries as we have known them. Printed products have been  moving rapidly to servers and Kindles. While most are still published on paper, this is widely seen as a temporary measure which will last only as long as it takes the old fuddy-duddies to die off.

And priorities are shifting. Last week, the Detroit Public Library announced the layoff of a fifth of their entire staff, or eighty-three employees, at the end of March. The far more affluent suburb of Troy has already voted to close its library. Other libraries across the state are threatened with huge cuts or extinction.

The economy is bad, but why do we feel that we can live without libraries?  Here’s what one reader posted on the Detroit Free Press website, spelling several words wrong in the process: “Library’s are fast becoming a thing of the past due to rapid access and information that can be had via the Internet.”

Or, in other words, why would we possibly need a place where books are kept and stored when we’ve got Google? Those who defend libraries mainly do so on the grounds that everybody doesn‘t have a computer at home. The newspaper‘s story about the layoffs talked about all the poor people who come to the library to print resumes and scan the internet for job openings.

Detroit Public Library

People losing their local Borders bookstore may turn to their local library for books and DVD’s. But that may put an even bigger strain on Michigan’s already-struggling libraries.

Libraries face a tough paradox.  People tend to use them more when the economy is bad. But a bad economy also means they get fewer resources to work with.