The ‘Hottest’ Library in America is a ‘Public Library’
It’s been nearly 20 years since we last checked in on the best libraries in America, and we’re still learning how to read and navigate the ever-changing landscape.
With more than 100,000 library cards and thousands of books, libraries are a vital part of our daily lives, but the best ones are always the ones that cater to our unique needs.
But what happens when your favorite library stops being your best option and it becomes a public library?
We asked library managers and experts what they think about how we navigate libraries these days.
“Libraries are really in the driver’s seat,” says Beth Bicknell, director of research and development at the National Association of Library and Information Sciences.
“When we have a library card, we’re always a part of it.
The people who are reading, they’re there.
But they don’t go to the library.
The staff are there.
And then when the cards expire, the people who go to library get the cards.
So it’s not just a static system where we’re not in the loop.”
Libraries may have an online presence, but they’re still largely an institution in the community.
“It’s important to remember that we are public libraries,” says Anne Hinkle, a library historian at the University of Minnesota.
“We are a public institution and a public service.
But we’re also an institution that has been built and run by a public sector.
It’s a little bit like our government.
We’re accountable to the public.”
Hinkle is currently working on her first book about public libraries, and she thinks the way we interact with them is becoming more of a thing.
“I think the idea that libraries can’t be online is kind of ridiculous,” she says.
“What about those kids in the classroom who are not going to school?”
Beth Bickrodell, the library manager at the U.S. Department of Energy, says it’s a bit of a misnomer.
“A library is not just like any other public institution,” she explains.
“It’s a service.”
The Library of Congress, for example, has over 100 million cards and over 4.6 million books, and its online system allows people to view and access the vast library of documents, books, maps, and other resources.
Bickdell says it doesn’t mean that people can’t go in and find the books they want to read.
“But you don’t have to go and ask the library to give you something,” she notes.
Bickdill’s library is one of several that we checked out for this article.
We asked her about the importance of having a library, and what she thinks libraries should do to be the best option.
“We should focus on providing the best value for our customers, because that’s how our customers want to be served,” she said.
“And I think a library should be a place where people can come to learn and connect with other people who share their interests and interests are what the library is about.”
Librarians aren’t just here to help people learn, but to learn from each other.
“One of the things that we really do, is we make sure that we can talk to people who might not be able to talk to someone in their own community.
So we have people who have a disability or who have health conditions who can come and talk to us,” Bickddell said.
The U.K.’s National Library Board (NLB) says that about 90 percent of library cards in the U,S.
are issued by non-profits.
This includes those issued by the UCC (UK) and the NSP (the UK’s National Union of Students).
The NLB has issued over 50 million cards since its inception in 1964, and it continues to provide a free service for all library users.
BICKDILL is a member of the NLB board.
In her free time, she’s also working on a book on the history of the National Library, the history and development of the Ullman Collection and the National Maritime Museum.
“My research interests include how libraries and the people working with them affect the way our country operates,” she wrote on her library website.
“I’ve also always been interested in learning about how libraries have evolved,” she continued.
“The history of libraries is very fascinating.
There’s a lot of fascinating stuff that we’ve never seen before, and there’s a ton of fascinating material that we never even imagined existed.”
Bickddill says that libraries are changing the way people interact with books.
“There’s an awareness that books are really valuable.
People want to learn about it.
And the library has become more of an information resource and a place for people to learn,” she concludes.
“So that’s really what we’re doing to ensure that we’re getting the most out of our libraries.”