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Libraries are fun-damental

In honor of National Library Week, Professor Barbara Immroth, former president of the Texas Library Association, reminds us why libraries and reading are cool.

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Barbar Immroth

Barbara Immroth, professor in the School of Information. 

National Library Week, an annual celebration of the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians, is April 10-16.

What’s the current state of libraries? Barbara Immroth, professor in the School of Information and former president of the Texas Library Association, answers our questions and suggests some new book titles for children.

Do libraries face competition from mega-bookstores, computers and e-readers?
Traditionally, libraries were called “the peoples’ university” because they were (and are) accessible to the general public. This is perhaps the biggest advantage to libraries — they offer multiple resources to families and individuals who either cannot afford, or don’t have access to, such lucrative resources. Library patrons can access job listings, databases, dvds, e-books, research materials and journals unavailable to those who fall on the negligible side of digital divide. Especially in today’s economy, people have not only lost jobs, but computer and Internet access, as well.  Libraries offer an important connection for those who have previously been, or currently are, disconnected.

A symbiosis has developed between libraries and bookstores in the last few decades, with libraries adopting a more “book store look” and bookstores providing typical library offerings such as story hours for children and author book signings and readings.

Libraries across the country are experiencing severe budget cuts. What effect might this have on accessibility or service?
Libraries across the nation are already cutting personnel and several have now cut their hours, so they aren’t as accessible as they used to be. The only thing left to cut is services and that’s going to affect the quality and quantity of information available. Libraries have databases (in Texas usually provided by Tex Share) that allow individuals to read daily media, such as New York Times and Wall Street Journal, look up photos and videos on archives and perform searches that far surpass Google and Yahoo. Bookstores do not allow for these comprehensive online options and if it becomes a budgetary necessity to eliminate them, it will severely limit access of information for patrons.

Do movies (such as Harry Potter) increase interest in reading or do they drive potential readers to the cinema?
Harry Potter is every librarian’s friend. The movies were a boon to get so many more kids to read, especially through their marketing schemes of locking the books up in warehouses until midnight the eve of the release of each book.  Kids loved the hype and interest in the books exploded.

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National Library week and the Texas Library Association’s annual conference are taking place this week. Image: Christy Sheffield on Flickr/CC

Do you have recommendations for parents to celebrate National Library Week with their children?
Get your kids a library card. Take a look at the schedules of some of the local libraries and enjoy the numerous activities they offer including gaming workshops, computer workshops, reading days with teens and social activities, as well as activities for babies and children.

Where can parents locate reliable reading lists for their children?
Some of the best reading lists are located on sites such as the American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults, Young Adult Library Services, Association for Library Service to Children and Texas Library Association Reading Lists.

Some of my personal favorites from Texas authors are: Crosswire (Dotti Enderle), The Day-Glo Brothers (Chris Barton) and Shark vs. Train (Barton), Greg Foley’s Bear and Willoughby books, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Jacqueline Kelly),  and Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid and The Lost Hero.