Archive for Thursday, March 18, 2010

Evolution of libraries

March 18, 2010

Recently, I came across a list of entertainment locations that were bargains during financial hard times. I certainly wasn’t surprised to find public libraries among the institutions providing outstanding services. In fact, it seems to me if you are looking for a variety of family fun and learning, the library is the place to visit.

Both Bonner Springs and Basehor are fortunate to have new, state-of-the-art libraries, which provide tremendous community service. Both the Bonner and Basehor libraries are open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday and from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday.

I was surprised to find that the first libraries were established over 4,000 years ago in Egypt and Mesopotamia. These early libraries housed clay tablets and were in cuneiform writing and papyrus scrolls. One source I came across said that in an Egyptian library that was excavated, all of the materials were listed on the wall, which was a primitive forerunner of the modern card catalogue.

Of course, the early libraries were limited to use by scholars, however that changed some 26 centuries ago when a public library was established in Athens, Greece. It wasn’t long before ancient cities were competing to have the best library and the most material available. It is sad, but a large number of the ancient manuscripts were lost when invaders burned cities. An interesting example is that of the Mayan libraries. Apparently a huge library was assembled in Mani, Mexico. During the Spanish conquest, material thought to be pagan was destroyed. Eleven of the Mayan books survived and are in a library in Peru.

There was growth of libraries during the early Christian era throughout Europe. Use of paper and the invention of the printing press during the Renaissance led to greater emphasis on learning and libraries. The increase in literacy in ancient Europe led to clamor for more public libraries.

The concept of the public library came to the New World with colonists from Europe. However, it wasn’t until 1833 when the first public library was opened in Peterborough, N. H. Public libraries spread though the United States in the late 19th century largely though the efforts of Andrew Carnegie. He was largely responsible for starting some 2,500 U.S. libraries.

Both the Bonner Springs and Basehor libraries arrived on the scene much later. The Bonner Springs library was started by volunteers in the middle of the last century and the Basehor library celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier in March.

As a kid I remember that library was a place you went with some fear and trepidation. Librarians were strict and the tiniest of noise received quick reprimand. Now, library staff members go out of their way to be cheerful and helpful.

The modern library provides a variety of information and entertainment. You can still check out books and periodicals, but collections now are much larger. There are videos, talking books, music and more available.

Library programs have changed, too. For example, the Bonner Springs library conducted a texting contest for teenagers and there are special programs for children and teens when school is out. The Basehor library has classes in yoga and PiYo. There have been classes aimed at helping senior citizens master computers. In short, both libraries have programs for persons of all ages.

Yes, libraries continue to provide these services at no charge. In fact, I believe that libraries are one of the best bargains that we receive from tax dollars. If you haven’t visited the library lately, you may be surprised to find the wide range of services and materials that are available.


Jason Bailey 8 years, 3 months ago

Clausie: You left out a troubling trend in local libraries which is having video games available for kids to play. I am an avid gamer myself so I speak with some background in the matter that video games have no place in a library.

Kids should be encouraged to read and expand their minds rather than continually be encouraged to use this mental crack of video games. Again, I don't have a big issue with video games in general but moderation is the key -- as always, in all things. I think kids get enough video game/crack time without adding this as an option in libraries.

Our kids are already turning out to be one of the most illiterate generations since the early 20th century. They TXT, they LOL, and if you ask most of them who Chairman Mao was, they'd give you a blank stare.

I just think the libraries are selling out to get kids in the doors.


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