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Shapiro, Laura. A mall for the mind.(San Francisco, California's new
     main library  facility). In Newsweek Oct 21 1996, v128, n17,
     p84(3). 


The new public library in San Francisco has up-to-the-minute computer 
technology. But it's sparked a big controversy: where are the books?  
                                                                      
Steve Coulter still sounds dazed and amazed. "We weren't prepared for 
the onslaught," he says. "We weren't prepared for World War III." As  
president of the San Francisco Public Library Commission, Coulter     
helped plan the city's newest crown jewel: a public library boldly    
designed and outfitted for the 21st century. Within a few months of   
its opening last April, the library had tripled the number of users   
and attracted national attention for its architecture, its technology 
and its community-based approach to funding. But success didn't halt  
a long-running barrage of criticism from inside and outside the       
library. "Our last hearing began at 5:30 and ended at midnight," says 
Coulter. "They got up and talked about everything, screaming and      
hollering. It was like some labor confrontation in the '30s." Now     
novelist Nicholson Baker has published a New Yorker article accusing  
the library of abandoning its traditional mission in favor of         
becoming a "high-traffic showplace for information and technology."   
"There are some people with their own dream," retorts city librarian  
Ken Dowlin. "And it's a retro dream."                                 
                                                                      
San Francisco's new library has opened in the midst of a              
coast-to-coast library boom. Cities are racing to rewire and even     
rethink their libraries, rounding up all the new tools they can       
afford to get ready for a new millennium. Even libraries in           
struggling communities are getting on board: last week Microsoft      
chairman Bill Gates unveiled a $10.5 million program called Libraries 
Online], aimed at helping 41 North American libraries expand their    
electronic services. But according to librarians everywhere,          
traditional print collections are far from obsolete. "With Internet   
access, the use of print materials has gone way up," says Toni Carbo, 
executive director of the National Commission on Libraries and        
Information Science. "They are complementary technologies." At the    
Cleveland library, circulation has jumped by an estimated 15 percent  
since the catalog went online. People dial in from home, locate a     
book and arrange to pick it up at their local branch. Early next year 
the main library will expand into a new, second building. A new       
addition is also under construction at the main library in Sarasota,  
Fla., where 70 computer terminals will be hooked up to the Internet.  
Cincinnati is completing a library building that will house a         
children's learning center, computer areas, expanded collections and  
a saltwater aquarium. Chicago's library is planning fiber-optic       
hookups with all 81 branches, and San Diego will unveil a new library 
in the year 2000. Research is underway on precisely how to wire the   
building. "No one knows what's going to be the new system in the      
future," admits city librarian William Sannwald. "I have a friend who 
keeps his '67 Pontiac Bonneville just to listen to his eight-track    
tapes."                                                               
But few cities have changed libraries as dramatically as San          
Francisco has, with a furious battle over whether to retain the old   
card catalog (it's staying) and self-styled "guerrilla librarians"    
hiding books to keep them from destruction. The city's old library, a 
dilapidated building made treacherous by the 1989 earthquake, was     
considered one of the worst in the country. The new library, designed 
by James Freed of Pei Cobb Freed and backed by a city budget          
commitment to ongoing financial support, inhabits a different         
universe. The $134 million, seven-story building is flooded with      
natural light; 300 computer terminals are available with access to    
catalogs, databases and the Internet; a huge children's area has its  
own array of computers on child-size tables, and the spaces           
everywhere are airy and open. But there's something wrong here. Is    
this a library or a really well-wired airport? As one user wrote in   
response to a survey conducted after the first month, "Great library] 
Where are the books?"                                                 
That's exactly what the angriest critics are asking. There are lots   
of open stacks for browsing, but behind the scenes books are piled    
everywhere waiting to be reshelved - a process that can take up to    
eight weeks, owing to crowds of new borrowers and a shortage of       
staff. But lots of books are simply gone. Baker, who was forced to    
sue the library to obtain a computer file listing discarded books,    
charges that some 200,000 were hauled off for destruction or giveaway 
before the move to the New Main, as the building is known. "Some in   
the administration call those books trash, but they weren't," says a  
librarian. "We were told to weed liberally, by the linear foot. It    
was done for space." Space is so tight at the New Main that,          
according to one librarian's estimate, up to a third of the           
circulating collection may be in storage. A memo dated Oct. 2         
demanded still more weeding of "older books ... that we don't think   
are used too often."                                                  
                                                                      
Dowlin admits the New Main has less stack space than he had wanted,   
but he denies that the discarding has been indiscriminate. "We have   
periodicals that go back a hundred years," he says. "We're not sure   
anybody will ever want to use them. Wouldn't it be nice to find a     
research library that wants to be a home for them?" Baker, who has    
urged the library to retain books for which there are no duplicates,  
calls Dowlin's collection policy "use it or lose it." In fact, the    
old library housed a fine research collection, says Berkeley          
historian Gray Brechin, who used it often. "Dowlin is turning it into 
a big, mainstream browsing library."                                  
                                                                      
But even library skeptics have been impressed by the unprecedented    
scope of the fund raising for the New Main. "People gave who had      
never been involved in projects like this before," says Baker. The    
campaign, which has become a model for civic projects in other        
cities, went beyond the usual philanthropists to target local         
populations, dubbed "affinity groups," including blacks, gays,        
environmentalists and others. "It was the most diverse and            
neighborhood-wide campaign ever done here," says Sherry Thomas,       
executive director of the Library Foundation of San Francisco, which  
led the effort. The affinity groups raised funds for the library in   
general, and also for special rooms or other spaces to honor their    
constituencies. It's all laudable, and yet ... The gay-and-lesbian    
community, which raised $3 million, is honored by a handsome reading  
room with easy chairs and a supply of reference materials. The        
Chinese-American community, which raised $1.2 million, also has a     
comfortable room, with a couple of computers. And the                 
Filipino-American community, which started late and raised only       
$250,000, got a table in an alcove with a smattering of books. "We    
never intended the rooms to be more than symbolic," says Thomas.      
"Each one is a showcase, not a collection." But the message is        
peculiarly non-San Francisco: with diversity comes inequality.        
That elusive sense of community, of the library as a place for what   
one librarian calls "the fellowship of readers," is just what critics 
don't sense in the New Main. Dowlin's view of the library as "the     
mall of the mind" is more apt, conjuring his sense of library users   
as online information shoppers. "I'm not sure what the balance should 
be between print and technology, but there has to be a public         
discussion of the real costs, and what we're willing to give up,"     
says Brechin. It's true: great libraries have always looked to both   
the future and the past. The public's job is to let them.             
                                                                      
Wired to the Max                                                      
                                                                      
The new libraries rising all across North America are anything but    
fusty. They're electronic theme parks - for readers.                  
                                                                      
Denver: This $72 million light-filled complex by Michael Graves has a 
six-story atrium topped by a one-acre reading room.                   
                                                                      
New York: The high-tech public research center for science, business  
and industry, designed by Gwathmey Siegel, was carved out of the old  
B. Altman department store.                                           
                                                                      
Phoenix: Library users can look through windows in the interior walls 
of this William Bruder building and see its mechanical systems and    
fiber-optic wiring.                                                   
                                                                      
San Antonio: Circulation is up by 47 percent since Richard            
Legoretta's bright-red, $38 million building opened last year.        
                                                                      
Vancouver, B.C.: There's retail space, day care, promenades,          
galleries - plus 300 terminals and a million books - in Moshe         
Safdie's $47 million library complex.                                 
COPYRIGHT 1996 Newsweek Inc.                                          



Shapiro, Laura. A mall for the mind.(San Francisco, California's new
     main library  facility). In Newsweek Oct 21 1996, v128, n17,
     p84(3). 


The new public library in San Francisco has up-to-the-minute computer 
technology. But it's sparked a big controversy: where are the books?  
                                                                      
Steve Coulter still sounds dazed and amazed. "We weren't prepared for 
the onslaught," he says. "We weren't prepared for World War III." As  
president of the San Francisco Public Library Commission, Coulter     
helped plan the city's newest crown jewel: a public library boldly    
designed and outfitted for the 21st century. Within a few months of   
its opening last April, the library had tripled the number of users   
and attracted national attention for its architecture, its technology 
and its community-based approach to funding. But success didn't halt  
a long-running barrage of criticism from inside and outside the       
library. "Our last hearing began at 5:30 and ended at midnight," says 
Coulter. "They got up and talked about everything, screaming and      
hollering. It was like some labor confrontation in the '30s." Now     
novelist Nicholson Baker has published a New Yorker article accusing  
the library of abandoning its traditional mission in favor of         
becoming a "high-traffic showplace for information and technology."   
"There are some people with their own dream," retorts city librarian  
Ken Dowlin. "And it's a retro dream."                                 
                                                                      
San Francisco's new library has opened in the midst of a              
coast-to-coast library boom. Cities are racing to rewire and even     
rethink their libraries, rounding up all the new tools they can       
afford to get ready for a new millennium. Even libraries in           
struggling communities are getting on board: last week Microsoft      
chairman Bill Gates unveiled a $10.5 million program called Libraries 
Online], aimed at helping 41 North American libraries expand their    
electronic services. But according to librarians everywhere,          
traditional print collections are far from obsolete. "With Internet   
access, the use of print materials has gone way up," says Toni Carbo, 
executive director of the National Commission on Libraries and        
Information Science. "They are complementary technologies." At the    
Cleveland library, circulation has jumped by an estimated 15 percent  
since the catalog went online. People dial in from home, locate a     
book and arrange to pick it up at their local branch. Early next year 
the main library will expand into a new, second building. A new       
addition is also under construction at the main library in Sarasota,  
Fla., where 70 computer terminals will be hooked up to the Internet.  
Cincinnati is completing a library building that will house a         
children's learning center, computer areas, expanded collections and  
a saltwater aquarium. Chicago's library is planning fiber-optic       
hookups with all 81 branches, and San Diego will unveil a new library 
in the year 2000. Research is underway on precisely how to wire the   
building. "No one knows what's going to be the new system in the      
future," admits city librarian William Sannwald. "I have a friend who 
keeps his '67 Pontiac Bonneville just to listen to his eight-track    
tapes."                                                               
But few cities have changed libraries as dramatically as San          
Francisco has, with a furious battle over whether to retain the old   
card catalog (it's staying) and self-styled "guerrilla librarians"    
hiding books to keep them from destruction. The city's old library, a 
dilapidated building made treacherous by the 1989 earthquake, was     
considered one of the worst in the country. The new library, designed 
by James Freed of Pei Cobb Freed and backed by a city budget          
commitment to ongoing financial support, inhabits a different         
universe. The $134 million, seven-story building is flooded with      
natural light; 300 computer terminals are available with access to    
catalogs, databases and the Internet; a huge children's area has its  
own array of computers on child-size tables, and the spaces           
everywhere are airy and open. But there's something wrong here. Is    
this a library or a really well-wired airport? As one user wrote in   
response to a survey conducted after the first month, "Great library] 
Where are the books?"                                                 
That's exactly what the angriest critics are asking. There are lots   
of open stacks for browsing, but behind the scenes books are piled    
everywhere waiting to be reshelved - a process that can take up to    
eight weeks, owing to crowds of new borrowers and a shortage of       
staff. But lots of books are simply gone. Baker, who was forced to    
sue the library to obtain a computer file listing discarded books,    
charges that some 200,000 were hauled off for destruction or giveaway 
before the move to the New Main, as the building is known. "Some in   
the administration call those books trash, but they weren't," says a  
librarian. "We were told to weed liberally, by the linear foot. It    
was done for space." Space is so tight at the New Main that,          
according to one librarian's estimate, up to a third of the           
circulating collection may be in storage. A memo dated Oct. 2         
demanded still more weeding of "older books ... that we don't think   
are used too often."                                                  
                                                                      
Dowlin admits the New Main has less stack space than he had wanted,   
but he denies that the discarding has been indiscriminate. "We have   
periodicals that go back a hundred years," he says. "We're not sure   
anybody will ever want to use them. Wouldn't it be nice to find a     
research library that wants to be a home for them?" Baker, who has    
urged the library to retain books for which there are no duplicates,  
calls Dowlin's collection policy "use it or lose it." In fact, the    
old library housed a fine research collection, says Berkeley          
historian Gray Brechin, who used it often. "Dowlin is turning it into 
a big, mainstream browsing library."                                  
                                                                      
But even library skeptics have been impressed by the unprecedented    
scope of the fund raising for the New Main. "People gave who had      
never been involved in projects like this before," says Baker. The    
campaign, which has become a model for civic projects in other        
cities, went beyond the usual philanthropists to target local         
populations, dubbed "affinity groups," including blacks, gays,        
environmentalists and others. "It was the most diverse and            
neighborhood-wide campaign ever done here," says Sherry Thomas,       
executive director of the Library Foundation of San Francisco, which  
led the effort. The affinity groups raised funds for the library in   
general, and also for special rooms or other spaces to honor their    
constituencies. It's all laudable, and yet ... The gay-and-lesbian    
community, which raised $3 million, is honored by a handsome reading  
room with easy chairs and a supply of reference materials. The        
Chinese-American community, which raised $1.2 million, also has a     
comfortable room, with a couple of computers. And the                 
Filipino-American community, which started late and raised only       
$250,000, got a table in an alcove with a smattering of books. "We    
never intended the rooms to be more than symbolic," says Thomas.      
"Each one is a showcase, not a collection." But the message is        
peculiarly non-San Francisco: with diversity comes inequality.        
That elusive sense of community, of the library as a place for what   
one librarian calls "the fellowship of readers," is just what critics 
don't sense in the New Main. Dowlin's view of the library as "the     
mall of the mind" is more apt, conjuring his sense of library users   
as online information shoppers. "I'm not sure what the balance should 
be between print and technology, but there has to be a public         
discussion of the real costs, and what we're willing to give up,"     
says Brechin. It's true: great libraries have always looked to both   
the future and the past. The public's job is to let them.             
                                                                      
Wired to the Max                                                      
                                                                      
The new libraries rising all across North America are anything but    
fusty. They're electronic theme parks - for readers.                  
                                                                      
Denver: This $72 million light-filled complex by Michael Graves has a 
six-story atrium topped by a one-acre reading room.                   
                                                                      
New York: The high-tech public research center for science, business  
and industry, designed by Gwathmey Siegel, was carved out of the old  
B. Altman department store.                                           
                                                                      
Phoenix: Library users can look through windows in the interior walls 
of this William Bruder building and see its mechanical systems and    
fiber-optic wiring.                                                   
                                                                      
San Antonio: Circulation is up by 47 percent since Richard            
Legoretta's bright-red, $38 million building opened last year.        
                                                                      
Vancouver, B.C.: There's retail space, day care, promenades,          
galleries - plus 300 terminals and a million books - in Moshe         
Safdie's $47 million library complex.                                 
COPYRIGHT 1996 Newsweek Inc.