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This is part of a series of reflections on a conference I attended May 4 & 5 in Cleveland: "The Changing Face of Cities," organized ...
by | May 21, 2007

This is part of a series of reflections on a conference I attended May 4 & 5 in Cleveland: "The Changing Face of Cities," organized by the Urban Libraries Council .

24hours

The name 7-Eleven no longer fits the convenience-store chain, since some franchises have been operating stores around the clock since 1963. Today, many grocery and drug stores are open 24/7, as well as fast-food restaurants and gyms. Could public libraries be next?

During the two-day conference, no less than three speakers suggested a significant expansion in library hours to the assembly of library directors from America's largest cities. Their response: murmurs and comments about how well that would go over with their employee unions.

Rose Zitiello, manager of bank relations for the city of Cleveland and co-chair of the NEO Immigrant & Minority Business Alliance, pointed out that libraries are a valuable resource for small-business owners and suggested that hours be extended to reflect the reality that many businesses now operate in a 24/7, global environment.

Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for the Urban Future, noted that immigrant entrepreneurs, who face major obstacles in starting businesses, would benefit from libraries staying open later and on weekends, since they tend to work long hours.

Marc Prensky, a learning consultant and CEO of Games2Train, outlined the world of the "digital natives," those born into the Internet age who are growing up on "twitch speed." For libraries to be relevant to future generations, Prensky argued, they must cater to the demand for instant access and immediate feedback. Of course, many databases, journals and e-books are already available online at any time. But libraries must figure out how to offer other services, such as reference assistance, based on the needs of Gens X, Y and Z, not the convenience of library staff.

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Anne Jordan  |  Former Editor
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