Friday, March 31, 2006

Libraries talked about in weblogs

An interesting local weblog posting on the Madison Public Librarymakes me wonder how today's blog musings will work as the primary sources of tomorrow's library histories. For example:
At the library again. The computers are all taken up by Madison's homeless, who spend most of their time playing online video games until their two hours are up. I'm not exactly sure why the library allows this; it seems like it should be against some kind of rule. There is a small, hooded Asian kid to my right watching Wrestlemania clips, and an elderly black man to my left doing his taxes. His half-hour session is almost up, and he's not finished. Across the aisle, a stubble-cheeked guy with a stack of VHS is looking at Craigslist postings of sublets. Every so many minutes I hear a different person complaining to the young woman at the tech desk about how the computer won't let them log on, and she has to explain about the two hour limit. Again. Everyone turns around to watch because the tech desk girl is pretty. The Asian kid just got busted for using multiple cards to log in past his limit. I had no idea the library was such a hotbed of intrigue.

5 comments:

anne said...

I think that a narrative like this one will be far more helpful to future historians than any number of circulation statistics and user studies has ever been. In two paragraphs (I read the entire entry) the author has covered topics from the homeless to technology and given a very accurate physical description of the Madison Public Library. While she did not show us a floor plan, like the article about library architecture, she described how people were interacting with the space, and the library services, two issues that I felt have been missing from histories such as Pawley’s and others we have read for this class.

Kelly said...

The computers are all taken up by Madison's homeless, who spend most of their time playing online video games until their two hours are up. I'm not exactly sure why the library allows this; it seems like it should be against some kind of rule.

I wonder what the author means by "this" in the last sentence. Does s/he think there should be a rule against playing video games in the library, or a rule against homeless people using computers?

Kristin said...

If I had to guess, I would say she meant playing video games because she follows up the comment by talking about how other people use the resources: "There is a small, hooded Asian kid to my right watching Wrestlemania clips, and an elderly black man to my left doing his taxes. His half-hour session is almost up, and he's not finished. Across the aisle, a stubble-cheeked guy with a stack of VHS is looking at Craigslist postings of sublets." I admit the kid watching video clips doesn't aid my argument though.

I agree with Anne. These personal narratives will make great primary sources provided they last long enough. The blogger gave physical descriptions of people and told how they were using the space and technology. She also tells about a book she read, and explains what she is looking for from a library book.

Katie Hanson said...

I agree that blog postings such as this will be really sueful to future historians, especially if the library's perspectives (such as staff manuals on proper user Internet use and security measures) were also obtained. That would tell us a great deal about how librarians perceive the same issues, at least on an 'official' level.

ellen said...

I think it is interesting to have the homeless folks use of the library come up in an electronic medium like this that is much more interpretative then something like circulation figures. I guess I find it interesting to compare this observation with some of the library ideals of the past that we have been reading about, for example, the drive to get working class people to use the library. It seems that the idea of self improvement would apply to the homeless in the same way librarian's hoped to impact the working class. Yet, here we are able to see how other (perhaps middle class) library users might perceive sharing the library despite the over arching goals of a public library.

Also, I would guess as the working and middle classes slowly erode homeless people will increasingly occupy a larger position in society and libraries will have to learn how to manage this challenge.