Life · Politics

Five for Friday, including a revisit to library transformation

1. The post I did last week on noise in public libraries was a hot discussion topic both on this blog and out in my neighborhood, so I called Nancy Ledeboer, Pima County Library Director, today to get some information about how local libraries are dealing with concerns over noise. As per normal when one speaks with a librarian, I learned something: Libraries are actually serving a broader range of the public than they did in the past, thus being more “public” than ever.

“We say we’re a public library here to serve everyone in the community,” Ledeboer said. “But the truth is what we were servicing in the past were people from middle class backgrounds who grew up in a culture of using the library.”

But now, she explained, libraries are drawing from all strata of the community because libraries offer more than books. The Internet changed the game in the ’90s, and people who could not afford access to a private computer – or lacked Internet access at home – came to the one free place where they knew they could find both computers and Internet access.

“A whole new group of people began coming to the library library looking for information,” Ledeboer said. “That’s a good thing – we’ve got more and more people acquainted with the library and what a library offers. But it did create a clash of sorts because so many people are using it.”

That clash is often about noise. Ledeboer said it has been an issue at many of the 27 branches in the library system, and each of the libraries is dealing with it in different ways.

“We’ve charged each of our libraries to create a quiet zone, and if they don’t have enough space for a quiet zone, then they are working to create a quiet time. “But frankly, some of our libraries are just too small. In that case, people need to approach a librarian if they feel they are being disturbed. Some people are hypersensitive to noise, and some people don’t know they’re being noisy so it is a matter of finding a find balance where people can all coexist in the libraries. We do have a code of conduct policy posted on our Website that says you’re not allowed to create a disruption that interferes with other people’s use of the libraries, but we don’t have specific ‘no cellphone’ policies.”

Ledeboer also said that the belief that fewer people are reading books because they only use the library for the computers or to hang out after school is a fallacy. She said books circulation is actually way up in the past few years when contrasted to before the time when libraries were community centers, and part of that is because when people come into a library branch to do research on a computer or participate in one of the job clubs or book clubs or get tutoring, they often leave with a book as well.

So, yes, libraries may be more noisy than in the past, but that is because libraries are, thanks to computers, Internet access and the myriad programs offers, actually living up to the “public” in their names in a manner that didn’t happen in the past. And that’s a great thing. See how much you can learn if you talk to a librarian?

2. Yet again, there was a study saying we’re killing ourselves with food. Actually, the report was about how more 60-somethings are disabled now than ever before and that disability is directly attributed to obesity. This is something that really gets on my last nerve because – surprise – we all have the ability to control what we eat. (Well, except for those people who have the syndrome where they eat in their sleep and all that.) We have the ability to get off our tail and go for a walk or something more strenuous. We have the ability to say no or go to food-addiction meetings to get help saying no. But we don’t. How many times do we have to hear that we are killing ourselves by eating this and drinking this and then eating this? With talk of health care all the rage, is anyone besides me wondering if we should put a limit on what a government plan would cover in regards to illnesses caused by obesity? Should healthy taxpayers have to pay for people to get insulin when their diabetes could be controlled with diet but those people refuse to control their food intake? Should we fine parents who let their children get obese? If you want help eating right and exercising, here’s an article you could read. And here is a clue: The sooner you start getting in shape, the better it is for you. It is harder to lose weight with every passing year and the damage is cumulative.

3. And speaking of eating …Thanksgiving is just around the corner and fellow religion blogger Karen Edmisten is asking, “Have you started your Thanksgiving tree?” If you don’t know what one is, check out her blog here. We used to make these when my kids were small and I’m thinking the idea needs to be revisited, especially in this year of loss. Too often we focus on what we don’t have … a Thanksgiving Tree is the cure for that.

4.  John Allen, reporter on all things Catholic and Vatican has come out with a new book, The Future Church: How 10 Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church. In this blog post, he says that if he had to pick a motto for his book it would be “Designed to start arguments, not settle them.” Sounds like my kind of read. Anyway, he is inviting people to read the book and then meet in cyberspace for discussions — should be fun. (And maybe interesting to see who actually shows up.

5. And finally, if you want to do good while you’re searching the Web, add GoodSearch to your browser. You can pick any charity you want and they get funds from your searches. Share, and share alike is what I say.