Crossing the Library Line

The branch library a half-mile from my home in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, is adequate for most of my leisure reading needs and my sons' ...
by | September 19, 2005

19142393 The branch library a half-mile from my home in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, is adequate for most of my leisure reading needs and my sons' homework assignments. Some of my neighbors, however, have forsworn the facility altogether--despite a recent fix to the leaky roof and a resurfaced parking lot.

Instead, they prefer to drive 12 miles north to Howard County, where a new branch library was built a couple years ago. Its "award-winning architectural design...reflecting the area's agricultural heritage" is bright and airy, and in addition to a large collection of materials, it also boasts a coffee bar.

For a variety of reasons--from aesthetics to wi-fi access--citizens all over the country are increasingly crossing jurisdictional boundaries to obtain library services. An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlights the problems this poses for managing and funding library systems.

In Wisconsin, where Milwaukee, Waukesha and Dane counties are struggling with the equity issue of "outsiders" using libraries funded by local taxpayers, officials have jointly applied for a federal grant to conduct a study of structural alternatives, including regional management. "Basically, anything's on the table," says one library board president.

That attitude of openness to change and new thinking is a key reason why libraries not only have survived but thrived in the Internet age.

       

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