Our Library

Just about two years ago we joined the Greenwich Public Library. As you might imagine, it is quite a spectacular library. I always feel a little badly that we don’t support our local library in Port Chester, but in terms of resources, there is no comparison.

Greenwich’s library is housed in a pretty spectacular building. Part of it is the old library, but they have added on a very large addition with exhibit space and meeting rooms and lots of computer terminals.

They have great collections across media, but I think we may have gotten the most value from their music collection. My son, Peter, takes large stacks of cd’s out nearly every week. He is a huge music fan and listens across all genres. His tastes couldn’t be much more eclectic and having access to the collection let’s him sample everything under the sun. I absolutely shudder to think what he would spend on iTunes or amazon if he didn’t have access to the library. Yes, he is ripping the cds. I admit that I feel a little guilty and ambivalent about it. I know that no one in my family would download files illegally and the artist was compensated for the cd when the library purchased it. I think it is pretty well-recognized what happens with the cds in a library’s music collection.

No matter when you head to the library, the place is bustling. One minute after it opens, the parking lot is full and there are people using every facility. So, since it is Greenwich, you might think the patrons come from a certain socio-economic background, but that isn’t the case at all. There is a pretty rich diversity of patrons. It makes me smile every time I go into the library. There are tons of kids and older people. There are businessmen in suits and soccer moms. There are men who look like they may have slept in their clothes and ladies who definitely lunch. It showcases the community in a really healthy way. It also shows how needed places like libraries are even in one of the wealthiest communities in the country.

The Greenwich library offers lots of educational and job support programing. It is clear that people are using the library in varied and vital ways. They are lounging to look at periodicals, researching on the internet, meeting in small groups for projects, browsing the stacks and socializing with friends and acquaintances. It is a beehive of activity.

There is a big debate about e-books and public libraries. Publishers are concerned about patrons being able to download e-books at home and gain access to content without the exertion of traveling to the library to pick it up. Why buy a downloaded file of music or a book if you can download it for a period of time and not pay anything. Publishers used to count on a book’s life cycle insuring purchases down the road. Digital files don’t really wear out. This is a big debate as librarians want to provide the broadest possible access to content for their patrons and publishers want to insure a revenue stream in the midst of an unsettling digital revolution.

There isn’t an easy answer to the business end of the decision. But it also highlights a huge potential change in the usage of libraries. If patrons can access information from at home over the internet, what happens to the role of the library as a cultural hub and gathering place? How will libraries validate their usage if their patrons are invisible? How does this impact the kind of programs and events the library might offer if patron visits decline? I would hate to pull up to our library and see the parking lot half empty. It would be a very sad sight indeed.


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