For more than 30 years, children in Dyersburg Tennessee have enjoyed reading from the comfort of brightly painted cast iron bathtubs in the school library. A creative librarian installed the first one and “the original tub was so popular that three more were added over the years.” Students have found lasting value in the tubs and reportedly speak of them and visit the school to see them long after graduating. Others, however, see them as part of a bygone era and so the reading tubs will be auctioned off today to benefit a newly constructed library.
This makes me so sad. The tubs created an enduring, positive experience around one of life’s greatest skills and pleasures. Is Dyersburg school library auctioning off some of its heritage and authenticity? Would it have been possible to incorporate the tubs into the new library plan as a way of building upon past successes while articulating its vision for the future?
It would be interesting to see what the new library is like, and what will replace the tubs as something people might return to decades later as a fond memory of their early reading experience.
In October, public radio produced a multi-part series on libraries with Bob Edwards, former host of NPR’s Morning Edition. The series explores the different types of libraries and programs, and concludes with an episode on privatizing public libraries. The complete program is available from this page. Simply click the link below the episode number to listen.
I thought it might also be interesting to reflect on how libraries are portrayed to the public today versus 60 years ago, as seen in the Vocational Guidance Film below (via LISnews and the Internet Archive).
To celebrate National Book Month, we begin a new series examining the successes and failures of our national library system. American Library Association president ROBERTA STEVENS discusses how libraries have changed over the past 20 years, and shares librarians’ struggles to meet the growing demands of their communities even as library budgets are slashed.
We continue our series with library historian MATTHEW BATTLES as he gives the then-and-now of world libraries, from the famed library at Alexandria to the genesis of modern public libraries. He is the author of “Library: An Unquiet History.” Then a visit to the New York Public Library and the men and women behind ASK NYPL, a service that librarians provide for those questions not easily answered by the Internet.
Continuing our series SHHHH… LIBRARIES AT WORK! today’s program focuses on how libraries and reading can enact change in the lives of patrons and readers, even when change is difficult. We visit a book group discussion among inmates at the Jessup Correctional Facility, then Bob talks with GLENNOR SHIRLEY, the Library Coordinator for the Maryland Correctional Education Libraries. She organizes prison book clubs, family literacy programs, and author visits for the thousands of prisoners living in the Maryland State penitentiary system.
In this segment of our library series, we’ll examine an alternative sentencing program in Fairfax County, Virginia, where offenders report to the local library instead of the local jail. We hear from some of the girls participating in the program, then KATIE STROTMAN joins Bob to discuss the success of “Changing Lives Through Literature.”
We continue our series SHHHH… LIBRARIES AT WORK! by focusing on that dwindling but important institution, the school library. Although many studies show that students with access to a full-time, fully staffed school library perform much better academically, school librarians across the country are getting the axe. We’ll visit a middle school in Laurel, Maryland where the librarian is pulling out all the stops to get students reading. GWYNETH JONES has turned her library into the coolest place in school by using technology and even television to get kids interested in reading and learning.
In this segment of our library series, Bob talks with KEITH CURRY LANCE, the founder and director of the Library Research Service of the Colorado State Library and the University of Denver. Lance studies the impact school libraries and professional librarians have on student achievement.
We talk with Barbara Jones, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The OIF tracks formal requests to remove a book from a library or classroom because of an objection to the book’s content.
We conclude our series “Libraries at Work” by exploring the library’s role in society. The trend to privatize public libraries is growing but when it happens, communities often fight back. We’ll talk to Stephen Klein and Jackie Griffin, two librarians who are fighting to keep their counties from outsourcing their public libraries.