Are We in a Library Renaissance?

Submitted by Charles Frost on Mon, 03/30/2009 - 20:54.


by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 03.30.09
New York Library via PSFK

The New York TimesScryve Corporate Social Responsibility Rating writes about the logic of libraries: It Has Computers, Gives Advice and Is Free. they note that library use is booming because of the economy and the growing numbers of unemployed people using it as a resource. This isn't a new phenomenon;

“We’ve been in the job-search business for decades,” said Paul LeClerc, the president of the New York Public Library, noting that President Obama has said that a librarian helped him find his first job as a community organizer. “This is a continuation.”

Boston Public Library

And it isn't just in New York; Mike wrote recently about the libraries in Massachusetts, in Library Use is Booming Because of Recession

Attendance is surging. Check-out rates are soaring. At some libraries, circulation - the number of items checked out in a given month - is up as much as 33 percent since last summer.

Dan Gould at PSFK notes:

It will be interesting to watch if all kinds of libraries continue to grow in popularity. Whether for the money saving free and cheap services, or for the benefits of using but not owning, it looks like we’ve only seen the beginning of the library Renaissance.


He is right. TreeHugger Warren has been promoting the concept of libraries for years in these pages, calling them the model Product Service System.

A library is a classic PSS. You have access to endless books, journals, magazines, even music CDs, without laying claim to any of them. In fact, when you no longer need them, they are available to others.

Collin puts it in simpler terms in What Makes a Good Product Service System?

Think of it this way: a PSS is often an answer to the question, "Hey, do you really need to own one of those?"

Libraries, like Product Service Systems, are the flip side of Living with Less, because we just don't have the money to buy more stuff or a place to put it. We are definitely in a Library Renaissance.

More on Product Service Systems:
TreeHugger Picks: Why Buy When You Can Rent?
TreeHugger Picks: Product Service Systems (Part II)
Eco-tip: Don't Buy It When You Can Neighborrow It


Upside of a downside

If it helps folks to appreciate their library and local history, then the economic downside is not all bad.  Cleveland Public Library has photos showing the amazing attendance the downtown library enjoyed during the depression era.  I will try and dig them up--today is my day off. 

On a related note: A friend/neighbor recommends that I read-- The Travels of William Bartram.  

The book influenced University of Akron researcher Ph.D. Laura Ray--her husband Woody Coleman (deceased) helped to spearhead the campaign to save the canal-era Henninger Homestead in the Cuyahoga Valley. 

History lives.

Hello family and friends.  My first history article was published last week, and I want to thank all of you.  Whenever I talked about various studies or projects, you always listened and commented and seemed interested, so thank you!  This article is one piece in my search for understanding the possible sources of information that slaves in antebellum America may have drawn upon for their health care.  This article is about indigenous Indian knowledge, but it's mostly about William Bartram, who helped preserve that knowledge.  If you remember the movie "Cold Mountain," the book Nicole Kidman gives to Jude Law before he goes to war is William Bartram's "Travels."  It was still widely read 70 years after its publication.


See Laura's articles and related links here: