Are libraries the new cupcakes?
July 22, 2010 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Are libraries the new cupcakes? They may be the next pop culture phenomenon however.
posted by dancingfruitbat (179 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hee. We are a diverse, non-library-specific outlet.
posted by koeselitz at 7:56 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder about this. I like to think that maybe libraries are enduring institutions immune to the ravages and capriciousness of time. That said, I wouldn't mind if people started funding them at appropriate levels, and cupcakes sure as shit are expensive.
posted by jessamyn at 7:58 AM on July 22, 2010 [19 favorites]


Cupcakes? You mean something nice, simple, and accessible taken-over by hipsters and turned into overwrought and stupidly expensive luxuries? God, I hope not.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:00 AM on July 22, 2010 [36 favorites]


If those Sex and the City harpies step foot in my library, I will punch them in their shrieking maws!*

On the plus side, this will be one of those rare times I'll be able to honestly say "I liked them before they got big."

*With knowledge!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:00 AM on July 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


I hope so. I can buy cupcakes just about 24/7 here, but our library hours have been so reduced there are only two days a week I can possibly get there.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:03 AM on July 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


I worry about the possibilities of hipsters in denim jumpers carrying cat totes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:06 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Libraries have been cupcakes since before cupcakes existed. Libraries are the original cupcakes. When cupcakes get frosted to the max, they get frosted with libraries.

Libraries are awesome, is what I'm saying.

I regularly visit 3 separate libraries and even then have to interlibrary loan books from them. Without libraries, I would be either poorer in money or spirit, likely both.
posted by DU at 8:07 AM on July 22, 2010 [21 favorites]


People (like me) have a tendency to fetishize libraries as bastions of the democratization of information necessary for enlightened self-rule and all of that rosy, humanistic optimism.

Of course people (like me) are right. Fund them, keep them current with shifts in technology and how we gather and access information. There is a reason why the people who tend to burn books are the ones who cannot (or will not) read them.

And cupcakes are evil. Cake is bad enough (too sweet, too starchy) but the cupcake is like a cake collapsing into itself all star-like, resulting in an inedibly dense saccharine devilspawn of a dessert. Anyone up for an old-fashioned cupcake burning?
posted by joe lisboa at 8:13 AM on July 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Once coffeeshops start cracking down on loitering, you'll see hipsters in libraries.
posted by yomimono at 8:13 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Was there a news story about cupcake shops bleeding to death from slashes to their funding in the wake of collapsed municipal budgets? I'm not sure I get the comparison.
posted by The Straightener at 8:17 AM on July 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


No? Haha, I was only kidding, then. *extinguishes torch*
posted by joe lisboa at 8:19 AM on July 22, 2010


Was there a news story about cupcake shops bleeding to death from slashes to their funding in the wake of collapsed municipal budgets?

Yeah, something about the fudget deficing.

Oh man, do I have a facility with language or what?
posted by Think_Long at 8:20 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


That link was entirely worth it for the NPR Gaga video.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:21 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hope so. I can buy cupcakes just about 24/7 here, but our library hours have been so reduced there are only two days a week I can possibly get there.

Interesting because my *tiny* city library just increased it's hours and seems to be doing a booming business this summer.
posted by jgaiser at 8:21 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well the libraries were way ahead on the delivery-via-truck trend.
posted by mullacc at 8:21 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can walk to my local library but can't walk to an overpriced cupcake shop. I know for many people the reverse may be true.
posted by jessamyn at 8:23 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also from NPR: Are We In A Cupcake Bubble?
posted by ericb at 8:23 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, I get it - it's a Mad Lib:

local government institutions are the new baked goods

Fire Departments are the new Coffee Cakes
Public Pools are the new Cinnabons
Dog Parks are the new Pecan Pies
posted by backseatpilot at 8:24 AM on July 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


Was there a news story about cupcake shops bleeding to death from slashes to their funding in the wake of collapsed municipal budgets?

Every time I hear about these problems being "budget" ones I get angrier and angrier. This is not a budget problem. This is an income problem. Stop cutting taxes, or better yet start raising them, and the "budget" problem disappears.
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on July 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


This whole "gourmet cupcake" thing seems to be an American fad, since we don't really have "cupcake shops" up here in my part of Canada.

But we do have libraries, thank goodness.
posted by djfiander at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2010


WSJ: New York City’s Cupcake Economy.
posted by ericb at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2010


djfiander, we actually *do* have at least one cupcake shop in Hamilton. And I'd bet there are some in that durn Toronto as well.
posted by the dief at 8:27 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


> my *tiny* city library just increased its hours

Sadly, our hours were just cut, in one of the richest counties in the country.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2010


Once coffeeshops start cracking down on loitering, you'll see hipsters in libraries.
posted by yomimono at 8:13 AM on July 22


Some of my local libraries have coffee shops attached. Possibly with cupcakes!

Any positive attention that keeps the libraries open, functioning and current is a good thing in my book (ha). I used to get frustrated that they would close so early on the weekends. Don't people like to read past 6:00pm? Now they are cutting back the days they are open. Sheesh.
posted by Cheminatrix at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2010


Public Pools are the new Cinnabons

You can smell them from a block away, and they both give you diarrhea.
posted by Think_Long at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2010 [29 favorites]


Where do I sign up for the non-trendy library?
posted by madajb at 8:29 AM on July 22, 2010


I can walk to my local library but can't walk to an overpriced cupcake shop.

But where do you get your sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, cruelty-free* snacks for the office?

*Taste-free.
posted by madajb at 8:32 AM on July 22, 2010


Dammit, I do not want my damn libraries all pop-cultured-up, you damn cupcake, NPR.
posted by kingbenny at 8:33 AM on July 22, 2010


I hope so. I'm the worst library volunteer ever - I show up intermittently and unpredictably, I can only ever be there for about an hour, and I spend at least fifteen minutes of that looking covetously at the new arrivals - and they are still so starved for resources that they're over-the-top grateful for the meager amount of time I give them. And this is a thriving inner-city branch of a thriving library system.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:34 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The rise of gourmet cupcakes has coincided with the increasing use of medical marijuana.

Just saying.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:34 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Libraries are way better than cupcakes! Cupcakes make fat kids, libraries make good citizens.
posted by fuq at 8:41 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


On the contrary Cool Papa Bell, the data clearly indicates that the rise of medical marijuana has coincided with the increasing price of gourmet cupcakes.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:42 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't wait until the inevitable Food Network "24 Hour Library Challenge" series with Guy Fieri and Sandra Lee premieres!
posted by briank at 8:43 AM on July 22, 2010


I can walk to my local library but can't walk to an overpriced cupcake shop. I know for many people the reverse may be true.

Well I can make hipster-style cupcakes in my oven but I can't write a David Eggers-esque semi-autobiographical novel in there. Believe me I've tried but I have terrible writer's block.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:45 AM on July 22, 2010


Wait, what happened to all the cupcakes!? Why can't I have both?
posted by iamkimiam at 8:45 AM on July 22, 2010


since we don't really have "cupcake shops" up here in my part of Canada.

We have one that I know of in Kensington Market. There might be more elsewhere, but yeah, there's no cupcake explosion that I've seen.

On the other hand, the Toronto Public Library is fucking fantastic. I pay them an obscene amount of money in overdue fines each year, but I pay it very happily.
posted by Ouisch at 8:47 AM on July 22, 2010


I hope not. The last thing libraries need is to become "adopt a starving African baby" trendy, only to be tossed aside 6 months later. Remember dogs in purses? Ugh.

Libraries are enduring, and deserve love. Not momentary infatuation.
posted by Eideteker at 8:47 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Libraries will get you through a time of no cupcakes better than a cupcake will get you through a time of no libraries.

Because libraries likely have resources which will tell you how to bake cupcakes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:51 AM on July 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Link is bonked for me. But fortunately my local libraries are all open and accessible, both in the "real" world and on line.

The equation does seem terribly silly. Libraries are essential, whether "in" or not. Cupcakes are delightful but frivolities.
posted by bearwife at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2010


Every time I hear about these problems being "budget" ones I get angrier and angrier. This is not a budget problem. This is an income problem. Stop cutting taxes, or better yet start raising them, and the "budget" problem disappears.

No, it's a budget problem. I live in California, where I believe that we pay the highest sales tax in the nation (Santa Monica, where I live, is looking to locally raise the sales tax to over 10%). Our local libraries are still in dire need of funding, and have just moved from being open six days a week down to five.

The problem isn't that the tax rate around here isn't high enough; the problem is that knowledge is undervalued, and so library services are viewed as non-essential and are always one of the first areas to feel the cuts.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Personally I question whether libraries are a trend at all. I suspect they're more popular now because they're free. In general people make more use of free services when the economy is bad, so why should libraries be any different? And people have always been using libraries: as a place to check out books, as a general resource center, as a place to keep cool during a hot summer. In some neighborhoods, the most popular use of the library is for Internet access.

At the risk of talking too much about hipsters, I think that the libraries "trend", if there is one, is part of a larger issues with "hipsterdom". Basically, as I see it, hipsterdom is a crisis of authenticity. In direct response to a larger society that on the surface values things that are expensive, fake, artificial, easy, and homogeonous, the hipster seeks out that which is thrifty, real, natural, difficult, and quirky. Hence the fascination with DIY and a return to crafts and hobbies which often preceded their own birth. And yet, the hipster has wedded themselves to technology, which they find indispensable. And so you have such oddities as hand-crocheted iPod holders. Hence the high value placed on natural foods, farmer markets, fin. But it is not enough that the sandwich tastes good: is it authentic? The need for authenticity is so paramount that it explains the tendency to look down on hipsters, hipster activities, and locations popular with hipsters. If hipsters are doing it, it means they are trying to be authentic and therefore whatever they are doing, it isn't authentic.

I think libraries appeal to hipsters because they satisfy a broad range of hipster values. Libraries are free and beyond being free offer incredible services and a selection as good or better than most book stores, so they satisfy the "thrifty" component. Unlike bookstores which foreground trashy bestsellers and shiny magazines, libraries carry all kinds of books; this satisfies their desire for things which are both real and quirky.

But more than anything, libraries are immovably authentic. Libraries themselves are pretty much immune to irony or a need to be trendy. Although they may get more use sometimes than others, they are never really "in" or "out". You can't really say, "I'm over libraries." Or even, "I was going to libraries before they were popular." A hipster -- or almost anyone, really -- can go to a library without any fear that they will be judged, evaluated, or measured in any way for doing so.

Of course hipsters aren't really "them". I mean, I'm essentially a hipster too, even though I see myself as being far from "hip". I still share most of these values, particularly a need for authenticity. I'm not really thrifty per se (I think "cheap" might be a better descriptor) but I love that I can get all of these books for free from the library, and I love that I can just say "Oh, I checked this book out of the library" without it carrying any of the potential dangers of saying "Oh, I bought this shirt at a thrift store" (or worse: "I bought this shirt at a shopping mall") or "I ate lunch at XYZ".

I mean, I can't imagine anyone ever saying, "Really?!? You checked that out of a library?!?"
posted by Deathalicious at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2010 [19 favorites]


I hope not. The last thing libraries need is to become "adopt a starving African baby" trendy, only to be tossed aside 6 months later. Remember dogs in purses? Ugh.

I can never keep track of who we are making fun of. Is it hipsters, or hotel heiresses?
posted by Think_Long at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like how in that WSJ article ericb linked to, there is this:

One segment of the industry that seems to be adding the most outlets is cupcake cafes. This could be a fad, or not,” Barbara Byrne Denham, chief economist at real-estate services firm Eastern Consolidated, wrote in a report Thursday

"Could be a fad, or not," indeed. It could be a fad, or it could be the start of a permanent cultural shift toward the cupcake. Someday historians will write about these days, the beginning of The Cupcake Movement that changed everything forever...for better, or as some argue, for worse.
posted by not that girl at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


There are places in the country where the cupcake craze hasn't penetrated, where you can get good, nay delicious, cupcakes by the dozen and still have money for groceries.

Everywhere else, perhaps libraries can make cupcakes and charge typical high prices for them then funnel the profit into the library itself. A mixer, a mix, a tray and liners and a small oven. Cupcakes on demand! (for those that like 'em).
posted by edgeways at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've recently developed a puppet fetish due to the Frown Town folks. I've been haunting their site and Furry Puppet. I decided to make my own. I ordered a couple books off amazon, but they aren't that sophisticated, so I decided to check the library. They didn't have any better books, but they had actual puppets! Now I couldn't get myself to check one out, since the idea of sticking my hand where thousands of children have gone before...there was also the idea that I couldn't bring myself to deprive a child of puppet access.

This said, I did check out a kids' DVD on puppets.

I love the library, but mostly to access things I am thinking of buying anyway. I believe in libraries. I think everyone should own one.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suspect they're more popular now because they're free.

Not only are they free, they're free, weatherproof, kid-friendly, outside-the-house time-killers.

I want to get the kids out of the house. It's cold and raining. My options essentially boil down to mall, McDonalds Playland and library. ♫ One of these is not like the others... ♫
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:57 AM on July 22, 2010


Well I can make hipster-style cupcakes in my oven but I can't write a David Eggers-esque semi-autobiographical novel in there. Believe me I've tried but I have terrible writer's block.

Have you tried going for Sylvia Plath?

too soon?
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:58 AM on July 22, 2010 [19 favorites]


When I think about it, I really hope libraries become trendy. And police departments. And roads. All those big, evil socialist ideas culting the impressionable youth into their addictive little web of sponsored misery and despair.

And if we play our cards right, soon enough libraries (and maybe even cupcakes!) will be right up there with smoking, drugs and rock 'n roll.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:59 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


>> "Open to the public" means "some days, you really have to wonder about people." Everytime I talk to my friends that work in public libraries I'm thankful I ended up in a corporate library. I'm not cut out for dealing with the craziness there.
posted by Blake at 8:59 AM on July 22, 2010


In Mexico we have cupcakes :) but very few functional public libraries :(
posted by Omon Ra at 9:01 AM on July 22, 2010


I just remain confused about why libraries in the US so often shut on Sundays, which seems a prime library-going day. (Also, why they have so few evening hours. I went nuts in the US, spoiled by the 10-10 365 days a year library here (they've now reduced their hours somewhat around Christmas, though they're still open every day). Even the provincial library is open Sunday (instead of Monday).

Cupcake shops don't sell cupcakes that are either better or cheaper than those I make at home. Libraries have books that are just as good as the ones I own.
posted by jeather at 9:06 AM on July 22, 2010


I mean, I can't imagine anyone ever saying, "Really?!? You checked that out of a library?!?"

I think in many areas, the middle/upper class DO have that reaction to libraries. I was once telling a (pretty out of touch) boss about a book I was reading from the library and her reaction was "oh, you're a good person for using the library." It was a similar reaction to mentioning how I bought a set of plates and bowls at a charity/thrift shop. Something like "hmm odd, but pleasantly plucky!". She was also the type who seemed to believe that owning books but not reading them would make her smarter. Unfortunately the bookshelf filled with management/business strategy books didn't make her a better boss.

People similar to her would much rather go down to mega-chain book store and buy all their books, and think that a library is for poor people, or people with kids.
posted by fontophilic at 9:12 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Every library needs to have a coffee shop and couch area.

Think about it. A place to drink coffee, read books for free, and meet bookish females.

Holy crap. Would there be anything in this world cooler than that?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:13 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait hold up hold the phone hang on a second wait just a freaking minute wait wait wait WAIT!

[Record scratch noise]

There are bakeries that only sell cupcakes?
posted by rusty at 9:14 AM on July 22, 2010


Libraries are full of books. Books are full of words. Words convey ideas. Ideas inspire action. Baking is an action. Cupcakes are baked. Cupcakes go with books and coffee. Libraries are full of books.
posted by Mister_A at 9:15 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suspect they're more popular now because they're free.
Wellll...only sort-of.
The public libraries here in Muncie are free only if you live within the city limits. If you live outside the limits, you have to pay $65 for a single membership, or $108 for a family card. It has to do with where the taxes come from to fund the library.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, so cupcakes are like... A thing? I was wondering - a fancy cupcake shop just opened in the plaza around the corner from me, and I could not understand it. "A whole shop, that just sells cupcakes? How is this even possible?"

I am almost exactly equidistant between my local library and my local cupcake shop. Almost exactly 800m to each, according to Google Maps Pedometer. :)
posted by antifuse at 9:17 AM on July 22, 2010


Think_Long : I can never keep track of who we are making fun of. Is it hipsters, or hotel heiresses?


I get around this by just making fun of everyone: "Fucking humans, buncha carbon based, semi-sentient, oxygen consuming bipeds. You see them, just standing around, drinking water... they're everywhere nowadays, and I'm sick of 'em, I tell ya."
posted by quin at 9:20 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Every library needs to have a coffee shop and couch area.

We had this in our town library when I was growing up. They installed it when I was in high school, and I can't remember what was there before that - maybe some periodicals?

It was incredibly annoying for two reasons - they stuck it right in the middle of the library, and it had an espresso machine. Maybe I'm old-fashioned about libraries, but I expect them to be quiet and relatively distraction free (ask me about noise in museums, too - I dare you!). It was really impossible to get a lot of work done when you had all the noise and coffee smells coming from the little kiosk.

That being said, I would be all for having a small cafe in our library in Cambridge IF it was out of the way a little bit. Maybe even in its own closed room, but you could still bring books and magazines in there. And it would have wifi and power outlets.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:21 AM on July 22, 2010


There are bakeries that only sell cupcakes?

You don't get the Food Channel, do you?
posted by madajb at 9:21 AM on July 22, 2010


But books taste horrible. I just don't see it.
posted by cross_impact at 9:23 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's a library made of bacon?
posted by Artw at 9:24 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Afroblanco, my local libraries (Phoenix, Tempe and Arizona's State's) all have cafés and open reading areas!
posted by khedron at 9:27 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My local library is also the local aquarium, which strikes me as one of the oddest combinations of services ever. Unless libraries are the new eel tanks.
posted by shinybaum at 9:30 AM on July 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've found the more popular a small library becomes the faster the fantasy, romance, self-help and pulp collection grows at the expense of the technical, philosophical, classic and historical. To bring up a recent annoyance, my local library does not have any works of Marlowe, Agamben, Jünger, Bacon, Leibniz, Naipaul, Latour or even Schiller. It does however have the entirety of both William Irwin and Deepak Chopra's works. Of course, these two points might be reversed. It may be that they are popular precisely for catering to those who read for anesthetic purposes.

I miss having access to Link+...
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:36 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


My local library is also the local aquarium, which strikes me as one of the oddest combinations of services ever.

I used to occasionally pass a store that was taxidermy and cheese.....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:39 AM on July 22, 2010


Cupcakes don't bite
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 9:41 AM on July 22, 2010


What about cupcake libraries?
posted by madcaptenor at 9:42 AM on July 22, 2010


Okay, I guess it's time to admit that I'm out of it. I didn't know cupcakes were cool. Wait, I guess I mean "in." I knew cupcakes were cool, I just didn't know they were a bigger deal than they used to be. That explains the whole Food Network show dedicated to them, I guess.

Libraries are the same way, except they're cooler than cupcakes and most people I know already thought they were cool.
posted by weston at 9:44 AM on July 22, 2010


I would be all for having a small cafe in our library in Cambridge ...

The new Cambridge Public Library is impressive!

...I would be all for having a small cafe in our library in Cambridge IF it was out of the way a little bit.

Like the Map Room Café in the Boston Public Library
posted by ericb at 9:46 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: A Library Made Of Bacon.
posted by Mister_A at 9:46 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


File under 641.5
posted by chavenet at 9:47 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: Community Weblog Powered By Librarians
posted by Blake at 9:49 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


First, I was just happy to see libraries get any mention in mainstream media.

Then, I was irritated that mainstream media mostly only has three library stories--'librarian is nonstereotypical,' 'libraries are changing' or 'libraries are useful.'

Now, though, I'm back to being happy to see libraries get any mention in mainstream media.
posted by box at 9:49 AM on July 22, 2010


A Library Made Of Bacon FULL OF CATS.
posted by Artw at 9:50 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Clever, chavenet.
posted by Mister_A at 9:50 AM on July 22, 2010


box - Could be worse. You could be a fan of comics. Zap! Bam! Pow!
posted by Artw at 9:51 AM on July 22, 2010


Libraries aren't free. They are just one of the most efficient use of tax dollars out there. If you use your library once in a year rather than buy books, you've probably come out ahead financially.
posted by QIbHom at 9:51 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


A Library Made Of Bacon FULL OF CATS.

That would last about as long as a library budget in a room full of city government types.

The cats would have better manners, however.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:54 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


> "Open to the public" means "some days, you really have to wonder about people." This is where you get the spark of an idea for TLC or somebody to do some goofball show called The Stacks...

The great thing about this idea is that it lends itself to any number of genres: comedy, drama, horror, romance, disaster, crime...did I mention horror? Action and sex farces, not so much.

> I've found the more popular a small library becomes the faster the fantasy, romance, self-help and pulp collection grows at the expense of the technical, philosophical, classic and historical.

I've said this before on the blue, but public libraries shouldn't be thought of the same way as academic libraries; they are there to serve the wants and needs of the public funding them, which is why the shelves groan under the weight of all the Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy and Sandra Brown books. Funding is often also tied to circulation, so a public library filled to the brim with the works of Marlowe, Agamben, Jünger, Bacon, Leibniz, Naipaul, Latour or even Schiller would probably find itself deserted and broke.

/ public librarian
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:54 AM on July 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


There's a new cupcake flavor at Philadelphia Awesome Cupcakes, Ltd. (located at the corner of Rocky Blvd. and Frank Rizzo St.). It's called...

Liberry!
posted by Mister_A at 9:54 AM on July 22, 2010


I promise, the only intended comparison was the possibility for ubiquity.

I do know that libraries are cooler than cupcakes. As are most things. If I could trade the existence of "Cupcake Wars" for the existence of "Library Wars," believe me, I'd be a very happy person. And only partly because I would really, really enjoy seeing something called "Library Wars."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:57 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just use jQuery.
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on July 22, 2010


From the comments at NPR.org:

BTW, if something is cool, it's effortless, it's eternal, and it doesn't have to be proven. Think David Bowie, Eames chairs, and Barbour jackets.

Libraries=David Bowie.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 10:03 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I want to get the kids out of the house. It's cold and raining. My options essentially boil down to mall, McDonalds Playland and library.


> get kids

You've had them for years, remember?

> gather kids

You gather your children.

> go garage

You and the children enter the garage.

> go car

You and the children enter the car.

> go mall

You drive 11 blocks to the Maul. There is no parking within 100 yards of the East entrance. You can already hear the Muzak over speakers in the parking lot.

> go mcdonalds

You drive 1 block to the nearest McDonalds. There are 13 SUVs in the parking lot, 4 in the drive-thru.

> look McDonalds

Unlike many McDonalds which have been through recent renovations, brightly colored plastic dominates the decor instead of soothing earthtones. The play area is expansive. There appear to be 17 children within.

> go library

You drive 15 blocks to the city library. The parking lot is half full.

> park

You park the car.

> leave car

You and the children exit the car.

> go library

You walk into the library. The smell of climate-controlled books is in the air. You are near the circulation desk. There is a children's book area to the east, a media area to the north, and adult fiction and non-fiction to the south.

> _

posted by weston at 10:03 AM on July 22, 2010 [27 favorites]


Does this mean I'm going to have to dodge hipsters driving bookmobiles all over the bay area?
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:07 AM on July 22, 2010


The Card Cheat, if I could afford a library card at the college I would. That is, if there was even a college within a four hour drive of me. I support both the state's colleges and the local libraries yet I only have free and convenient access to one of these two in my part of rural America. And that particular convenient and free library fails to function as anything more than a Barnes & Noble with late fees. It is not a resource.

Don't get me wrong, I love libraries. But what I love about libraries is that I can learn for free in a library, a good library and some friends is better than any college education. That is, when there is literature. Also when there are friends, but I got that one covered.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:07 AM on July 22, 2010


I would watch library wars! I imagine it would go something like this...
SFX: Flashback Harp

LIBRARIAN 1: Hey! Did you hear our arch-rival library just got in some rare and awesome library materials?

LIBRARIAN 2: No, this is the first I've heard of it. What should we do?

LIBRARIAN 1: We should go by there and say hi to Josh and Sara! Maybe bring 'em some cupcakes. I'm sure they're going to want to show us the new awesome library materials and maybe set up a co- op lending program.


FUCKIN' DRAMA, EH?
posted by Mister_A at 10:13 AM on July 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


That link was entirely worth it for the NPR Gaga video.

It was entirely worth it for the Brigham Young University(!) Old Spice parody. That guy utterly nails it.
posted by straight at 10:14 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


madajb: You don't get the Food Channel, do you?

No. And once in a while something comes along to gently remind me that I'm still glad about that.
posted by rusty at 10:16 AM on July 22, 2010


I like to think "Library Wars" would be a lot like "Robot Wars." Mostly because I want Craig Charles narrating my adventures. And since I have to dodge buzz saws at work, anyway, I might as well get media exposure for it.

Full disclosure: they are budgeting buzz saws, but they still hurt.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:21 AM on July 22, 2010


Man I hope libraries aren't the new fad. It's hard enough finding a quiet place to masturbate without having a bunch of cupcake eating twenty year-olds running around.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Parasite Unseen: The problem isn't that the tax rate around here isn't high enough; the problem is that knowledge is undervalued, and so library services are viewed as non-essential and are always one of the first areas to feel the cuts.

Begging your pardon, but the problem is BOTH. California's budget problems are endemic, and have been since 1978. Libraries are indeed underfunded and are indeed the first to fall to the budget ax. Part of that is knowledge being undervalued is also endemic. Part of that is that Californians hate the idea of new taxes for anything, let alone libraries that “we” never use or go to (this has been an argument raised in favor of shuttering public libraries in California -- “Go to the bookstore,” one civic-minded guy said when asked why he didn’t support funding the public library with higher taxes). One doesn't exclude the other.

The Card Cheat: I've said this before on the blue, but public libraries shouldn't be thought of the same way as academic libraries; they are there to serve the wants and needs of the public funding them, which is why the shelves groan under the weight of all the Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy and Sandra Brown books.

This is truth. If you want less Steel and more Leibniz, you'll need to convince your fellow citizens that Leibniz is worthy to supplant Steel on the shelf.

Afroblanco: Every library needs to have a coffee shop and couch area.

Fantastic idea. But before every library has these, they need to have the money just to keep the doors open.

Deathalicious: But more than anything, libraries are immovably authentic. Libraries themselves are pretty much immune to irony or a need to be trendy. Although they may get more use sometimes than others, they are never really "in" or "out". You can't really say, "I'm over libraries."

Well, yes, you can, unfortunately, and more people are saying that in public without fear of having made a horrifying enormous social faux pas. There are people who are not only over libraries but have never been in a library and have no strong feeling that they should continue to exist.

On the NPR thing in the FPP, it’s very cute, but in that sort of semi-desperate “let’s make up a trend so we’ll have something to talk about” way that NPR has. It doesn't seem to me that a few clever YouTube videos constitute an incipient "pop-culture wave."
posted by blucevalo at 10:24 AM on July 22, 2010


I thought macarons were the new cupcakes.
posted by Electric Dragon at 10:27 AM on July 22, 2010


> That is, when there is literature.

I feel your pain, TwelveTwo. The branch I work at has 81 books by Danielle Steele (not including paperbacks, which aren't cataloged) and 9 by Oscar Wilde. Such is the gulf between the world we wish we inhabited and the one we do.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:30 AM on July 22, 2010


I've found the more popular a small library becomes the faster the fantasy, romance, self-help and pulp collection grows at the expense of the technical, philosophical, classic and historical. To bring up a recent annoyance, my local library does not have any works of Marlowe, Agamben, Jünger, Bacon, Leibniz, Naipaul, Latour or even Schiller. It does however have the entirety of both William Irwin and Deepak Chopra's works. Of course, these two points might be reversed. It may be that they are popular precisely for catering to those who read for anesthetic purposes.


It's already been said, but this is not what public libraries are for. They're for storing the books people want to read. Hopefully they'll also have some genuine classics (like Moby-Dick, not Schiller), for people looking to read something a little "better" than Tom Clancy, but they're not for keeping niche reading material for intellectuals. Seriously, if you put everyone who is as important as Schiller on there, your small library would be gigantic and bankrupt.

Also, as a side note, saying things like "those who read for anesthetic purposes" makes you sound like an ass.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:32 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


CUPCAKE PIRATE NINJA ZOMBIE MONKEY LIBRARY!
posted by kcds at 10:39 AM on July 22, 2010


That last comment came across a bit snobbish. When I was a kid there was a well-intentioned but misguided librarian at my school who was always scolding me about the trashy fantasy novels I was reading at that age and telling me I should be reading "the classics." It was annoying, and if I'd been less of a nerdy bookworm it might have put me off reading altogether. It's all well and good to point patrons toward books you personally find edifying, but ultimately it's not our job to act as tastemakers, and pretty much anything* people read is better than nothing.

* Tim LaHaye's books personally excepted. God it feels good when I get to weed those...
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:48 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is this going to be the same as when people found out gays throw the best parties? Because that will end up ruining everything.
posted by New England Cultist at 10:56 AM on July 22, 2010


TwelveTwo: Sadly my entire philosophy section cannot circulate as much in a year as the last 3 or 4 James Patterson books can circulate in a month. But your local library would probably appreciate any suggestions. At the end of the year when I am trying to spend that last little bit of my budget, I am thankful that some patron has given me a list of 5-10 urban planning (or philosophy, or classical music, or poetry) books.

Card Cheat: I love it when a Tim LaHaye book gets damaged and I can bin it.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2010


Can I take this tangentially-related post as an opportunity to wring my hands a little bit over the trend to buy videogames for libraries? Because I worry that municipalities are going to say, hey, really, what is the public good in subsidizing this when we're cutting funding for schools and clinics and police, and oh, by the way, while we're at it, why are we buying DVDs that people can easily get through Netflix or $1 kiosks? Ex-public librarian here, btw, so I do know the arguments about media for the people and let's attract non-readers to the libraries so that they'll discover books... and I'm finding them unconvincing.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:58 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Libraries don't have cookies cupcakes, they ONLY. HAVE. BOOKS!
posted by usonian at 11:03 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


No one cares about cake balls :(
posted by unknowncommand at 11:09 AM on July 22, 2010


NO CUPPIES! JUST BOOKS!
posted by Lou Stuells at 11:15 AM on July 22, 2010


Usonian, I hate you. A lot.
posted by Lou Stuells at 11:15 AM on July 22, 2010


I know that my own perception of libraries and librarians changed as a result of the rise of the internet. All of the sudden there was a visible struggle over copyright law, with the corporate fat cats on one side, and on the other, the FSF and the EFF and Lawrence Lessig, the hackers, free-culturers, copylefters and file-sharers. And at some point, it became clear that the librarians had been fighting this fight for ages. They were defending unfettered access to information before it became cool.
posted by baf at 11:19 AM on July 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


You could have avoided that by looking.
posted by Mister_A at 11:20 AM on July 22, 2010


There are things that are better and things that are worse. It was better when opinions and values could be acted upon. Certainly, such activity at an institutional level produces some annoyance and maybe even desolation in some locations, but it would also allow there to be a real resource for the curious and poor. When did libraries change from the position that knowledge is good to being entertainment venues swayed by mass opinion and fashion? Why has the public lost faith in these institutions being good regardless of use? Libraries will never be hot spots, they aren't about how many people use them but that people can use them. That if you really get an itch for finding out who the hell Toynbee or George Eliot is you can go to the library, or if you want to get a clue about patent law the relevant book are there too. Public law libraries don't worry about whether or not the collection is popular, the good of the project is believed in.

It is probably true that you cannot survive as a library by being so idealistic, but for no reason should it be regarded that this is not an injury to society. It shouldn't be accepted with a shrug and a "oh boy, that is just people for ya". I would rather invest tax money on libraries well-stocked and under-appreciated than libraries full of nothing and frequented solely by the frugal. I would have never gotten into reading without a serendipitous encounter with a copy of Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book supported by a library containing all the books he cites and recommends. But the local library where I live now could not support such an endeavor. A dead end is reached at Epictetus. This fact is reacted to with a shrug.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:22 AM on July 22, 2010


Agora.
posted by ovvl at 11:26 AM on July 22, 2010


For TwelveTwo: Schiller, Marlowe, Bacon, Leibniz. With apologies if I've picked the wrong authors, as philosophy isn't really my thing.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:35 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Libraries are not the new Cupcakes, they are the new Viagra or maybe Astroglide? How about Realdolls?
posted by JJ86 at 11:35 AM on July 22, 2010


Libraries are all about balance. A good segment of the population would be thrilled if you made a "library" that was:

1) A few racks of three copies each of Twilight, the last three Lee Child books, and some Patterson.
2) A place to park kids.
3) Computers in back to the wall carrels so people could enjoy their Hotmail, Facebook, and porn.
4) A coffee-based vending machine and a starchy/greasy vending machine.

Is that a library? Nominally. Then there's the library in the Souls in the Great Machine, last bastion of knowledge you will never know if you will need a century from now, federal document repository, access to obscure journals sense.

The nerd in me loves the latter while recognizing that funding is theoretically paid for by the former. I'm not so sure how many people in the first library instance would actually vote for libraries to remain open, however.
posted by adipocere at 11:37 AM on July 22, 2010


There is a Japanese cartoon called Library Wars, but it's not as cool as any of the other imagined scenarios upthread, alas.
posted by Aznable at 11:54 AM on July 22, 2010


Apparently being a fan of libraries allows one to be gigantic snob about other people's preferred use of said libraries.

But the local library where I live now could not support such an endeavor. A dead end is reached at Epictetus. This fact is reacted to with a shrug.

For fuck's sake.
posted by Think_Long at 12:03 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


When did libraries change from the position that knowledge is good to being entertainment venues swayed by mass opinion and fashion?

About the same time that they started letting children and black people into public libraries. Yes, I am totally serious. You could play chess in a public library in the US (with the game provided by the library) before children were allowed to check out books. I don't know why NPR is all het up about them just now but this too shall pass.

Libraries serve their communities, generally. If your library has these books in these proportions it is usually because they are circulating and people are reading them. Make suggestions, order things through interlibrary loan, come to your library's board meetings. Understand why the library is the way it is.

ALA's original motto was, if I am not mistaken: The best reading for the greatest number, at the least cost. Public libraries have to support a wider definition of everyone with a much lower budget. It's not rocket science but neither is it simple.
posted by jessamyn at 12:10 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


why are we buying DVDs that people can easily get through Netflix or $1 kiosks

Because a public library is a public good that meets the needs of the public? Because, despite all the sneering at the great unwashed that is going on in this thread, DVDs are by far one of the most popular sections of the library? Because movies are great resources for entertainment and education? Because, for plenty of people a library DVD collection lets them watch movies they would never see otherwise, a chance to expand their tastes and learn of a whole new world of art?

Honestly, the holier than thou, how dare the heathens want to read/watch stuff all that popular trash bullshit that is being thrown around in this thread is bringing out some of the ugliest classism I've seen in a while. One of the first things I do when I move is get a local library card, and I use it almost every week. I use the library to learn, to grow, to discover things that I'd never have seen before, but by far most of what I check out is trashy, disposable popular media. Books, dvds, cds, *gasp* comics. And it's wonderful.
posted by aspo at 12:11 PM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Honestly, the holier than thou, how dare the heathens want to read/watch stuff all that popular trash bullshit that is being thrown around in this thread is bringing out some of the ugliest classism I've seen in a while.

Seconded.
posted by Think_Long at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2010


Libraries are probably better off under the radar. As soon as teabaggers remember that there's a place where black people can learn stuff, and it's paid for with tax dollars, we become a (bigger) target.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:17 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


When did libraries change from the position that knowledge is good to being entertainment venues swayed by mass opinion and fashion?

The change happened when librarians got their heads out of their asses and realized they had no right to dictate what a community should be reading. You may think that your philosophy book is more important than my Mary Kate and Ashley Olson mystery, but that's just your opinion and neither you nor the library have a right to impose it on me.
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:20 PM on July 22, 2010


I use the library to learn, to grow, to discover things that I'd never have seen before, but by far most of what I check out is trashy, disposable popular media.

Fine. Other people want to be able to use the library to learn, grow, and discover things by checking out Christopher Marlowe, V. S. Naipaul, and Epictetus. Only one of those populations is being well-served by TwelveTwo's local library.

And people who aren't TwelveTwo are doing a lot more sneering in this thread than TwelveTwo is.
posted by twirlip at 12:25 PM on July 22, 2010


I just got back from the library! I walked there and it was really nice. I ran into a few friends there. The librarian gave me my paycheck stub and a half gallon of Grade C maple syrup that she and her husband made and sold to me for cheap. I told her I found a way to borrow an LCD projector for her book club. I got to walk home with the (local) newspaper and a jug of syrup. I didn't even bring home any more books because I've got a few on my night stand already and I don't have to bring them back until I'm finished since we don't have library fines.

No cupcake has ever made me feel this way.
posted by jessamyn at 12:25 PM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Whenever I think of my public library I think of this and learning to draw by putting tracing paper over the illustrations.

<3
posted by ServSci at 12:27 PM on July 22, 2010


You may think that your philosophy book is more important than my Mary Kate and Ashley Olson mystery, but that's just your opinion and neither you nor the library have a right to impose it on me.

Having that philosophy book in the library is not the same as imposing it on you. It would be more accurate to say that libraries without philosophy books are imposing a certain set of tastes on the people who want to read philosophy.
posted by twirlip at 12:28 PM on July 22, 2010


You may think that your philosophy book is more important than my Mary Kate and Ashley Olson mystery, but that's just your opinion and neither you nor the library have a right to impose it on me.

Sounds like somebody needs to read a little philosophy.

:) I kid, I kid ...
posted by joe lisboa at 12:31 PM on July 22, 2010


In Minneapolis we don't have a single hipster cupcake shop! Count on the trend reaching here in about 10 years, when trendy shops in the SF Bay have moved on to selling boutique crack cocaine.

We do have plenty of libraries though.
posted by miyabo at 12:31 PM on July 22, 2010


I don't mean to be flip, but did I miss the evidence in these threads that libraries are lacking in philosophy texts? My library system has plenty. They may not have as many copies Marlow as they have of Twilight, but that just reflects demand. Meeting that demand draws more people to libraries. More people in libraries means more people using libraries, meaning more funding for libraries, meaning more $$ for library books.

I truly think all of the hand wringing over the perceived quality of our libraries' content does a disservice to the inherently communal aspect of public libraries.
posted by Think_Long at 12:33 PM on July 22, 2010


Having that philosophy book in the library is not the same as imposing it on you. It would be more accurate to say that libraries without philosophy books are imposing a certain set of tastes on the people who want to read philosophy.

The way I read TwelveTwo's comment I got the impression that he felt that libraries were wasting money by buying "trash." I guarantee that his library has philosophy books, but probably not the ones that he wants. He can easily get them through inter-library loan. Sorry If I came off a bit snippy, but I get really pissed when people try to imply that their choice of literature, entertainment, etc. is better than others.
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:33 PM on July 22, 2010


Miyabo: You want cupcakes? We got your cupcakes right here.
posted by Think_Long at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know I've actually been there? I didn't think they actually sold cupcakes, I thought it was a cute name for a restaurant specializing in soup.
posted by miyabo at 12:36 PM on July 22, 2010


Great! Get those classics! Have them available for people who want them. I've checked out my fair share over the years. But don't think that your tastes should be catered to just because you think they are more intellectual than those of the great unwashed. Libraries exist for the public, of which you are just one member. Respect that.
posted by aspo at 12:36 PM on July 22, 2010


Yeah, to be clear, even as a philosopher I have no complaints about my access to texts in the field via libraries. As an adjunct at multiple universities one of the (few) perks of the job is that I have faculty access to some very fine university collections, and several of those to boot. Combine that with the quite impressive Detroit Public Library main branch (an impressive building and collection right down the street from me) and a thorough inter-county interlibrary loan program here, I am quite happy with my options. Just wanted you to know I was not piling on the =why does my public library not carry books in my area of interest= thing.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:40 PM on July 22, 2010


New York Public Library just tweeted this thread. Is one of you guys @NYPL?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:41 PM on July 22, 2010


why are we buying DVDs that people can easily get through Netflix or $1 kiosks

Because a public library is a public good that meets the needs of the public?


Well I think in a way libraries don't make sense, in that if they didn't exist today and someone suggested using public funds to buy books, dvds, cds, internet access, etc. and letting people use them for free the plan would be laughed off as being ridiculous (or worse, socialist). At least in the US, the thinking seems to be that private businesses should provide every service needed by the people.

For example, most people would agree that having access to healthy food is at least as important as having access to the latest dvds, but there's not an equivalent to libraries for food. Sure, there are soup kitchens and food stamp programs, but those are designed to be a last resort for people who have no other options, rather than a public resource that everyone in the community could and should use. The idea is that if you have a job and can afford food (but not necessarily healthy food) you should just go buy it from a store. So it's not surprising that people would expect everyone to go buy a movie from a store rather than borrowing it from a library.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2010


Huh... The arguments surrounding libraries can be summed up by just saying that motto with different emphasis.

The best reading for the greatest number, at the least cost.
The best reading for the greatest number, at the least cost.
The best reading for the greatest number, at the least cost.

But, you librarians are right. I'll take my own words regarding the importance of libraries seriously and attend my library's board meetings.

and I'll make this same stink!
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2010


My library has no fresh maple syrup section; this sucks!
posted by Mister_A at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2010


Now extend that analysis, burnmp3s, to the Post Office, or better yet, the guarantee of legal counsel when charged with a crime, e.g., and you have further evidence that even (some of) the Founders were comfortable with the notion of socializing certain services, as it were. I think this is evidence of wisdom, not something to regret, i.e., that the Founders were not farsighted enough to anticipate or design a state wherein all services are provided by (i.e., at the mercy of) the market. Now connect the idea of an informed citizenry being an indispensable requirement for an effective democracy with the idea that socializing the expense of providing some goods and/or services (e.g, access to information) to all, and voilà! The Public Library.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:53 PM on July 22, 2010


... or you know, some cupcakes.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:54 PM on July 22, 2010


In Seattle, we had the Edible Book Festival, complete with a Holy BLT, Life on the Myth of Pippi, and the Satanic Nurses. I think there was a Harry Potter cupcake. I assumed they were raising money for the library system, but see now it's for a group that teaches people how to make books by hand.
posted by nomisxid at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2010


burnmp3s: Well, a library has the advantage that once a book is bought, it can be lent out to many people. There's plenty of books in my library that are older than I am. And thanks to my library I can check out books on how to eat healthier, or I can check out books on how to grow healthy food.

In my city there actually are public plots for personal gardens. Yes there's waiting lists, but land is much more expensive than a book.
posted by aspo at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2010


He can easily get them through inter-library loan.

I didn't want to get into the limitations of my inter-library loan offering but.... My local branch is disconnected from the nicer systems in the state and is part of a tiny four library system. All requests cost $5 per book, plus whatever fees are tacked on by the holding institution for inter-system requests. Maybe I am in an exception, but I feel this sort of limited library service is more common than the deliciously interconnected systems near metropolitan areas.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The best reading for the greatest number, at the least cost.

Are you trying to imply that your choice of reading is inherently better?
posted by aspo at 12:58 PM on July 22, 2010


Yes. Because I can do that. There are things called values. We get to argue about them. It is called politics.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:01 PM on July 22, 2010


Also, in defense of DVDs from the library vs. Netflix, in most cases (though not all) you can take these home for free. The only problem this has caused in one of my local libraries (where my mother works) is the issue of kids being able to borrow (GASP!) R-rated movies. There was actually a big stink about this wherein the mayor tried to hold the library responsible for this, and suggested they implement a system for keeping kids from checking out certain materials. The library basically responded that maybe the kid's parents should be responsible for, you know, parenting them.
And it's not as though they carry porn, as far as I've been able to find. I have requested books which they now carry, and I am pleased to say I am the reason the Urbandale Public Library owns two Michael Kupperman collections. You're welcome, Urbandale-ians!
posted by cottoncandybeard at 1:02 PM on July 22, 2010


but I feel this sort of limited library service is more common than the deliciously interconnected systems near metropolitan areas.

At the risk of overgeeking on this thread, you're right. If you're part of a big system you'll usually fare better with ILL stuff. Or if you're in a place where they do this sort of thing and support it at a statewide level. I know that MA, NH and VT all have basically free ILL services for getting most books. They'll occasionally ask you to chip in for postage if they have to get a book from far away, but I know a lot of people who turn their public libraries into more like academic libraries by using [possibly abusing, but whatever] interlibrary loan.

and I'll make this same stink!

Honestly, that's actually where it's totally appropriate. Basically being like "Hey I like to read this sort of book and not only can't I find it here but it's becoming prohibitively expensive for me to continue to ILL these books from places that do have them. My books are not that 'out there' and I'm wondering why the library doesn't purchas more of them. Can you give me siggestions for helping solve this problem?"
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on July 22, 2010


Yes. Because I can do that. There are things called values. We get to argue about them. It is called politics.

TwelveTwo - I totally get that your library branch has fewer resources than mine, so I shouldn't dismiss your arguments by claiming your system does have the resources that you know for a fact it doesn't.

But, when it comes to arguing content of the libraries, you have a sort of attitude that seems very classist. I think you need to accept that the library is for people of all backgrounds, and those that read pop fiction crap deserve just as much access to it as you do to Kant.
posted by Think_Long at 1:05 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


and those that read pop fiction crap deserve just as much access to it as you do to Kant.

Up next: Dan Brown on a supposed right to lie because of philanthropic concerns!
posted by joe lisboa at 1:14 PM on July 22, 2010


Yes, TwelveTwo, you can argue that your choice of reading material is better/more important than that of everyone else, but you have to accept being labeled as an elitist dick.
posted by nestor_makhno at 1:14 PM on July 22, 2010


So be it.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:18 PM on July 22, 2010


Hmph. It's not "A Hipper Crowd of Shushers", at least, but still; it's pretty bizarre to have worked in libraries for twenty years now and have someone act as if our continued existence is akin to finding out that your town has a full-time blacksmith.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:18 PM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I used to occasionally pass a store that was taxidermy and cheese.....

Was that in Wisconsin? Because if so I know the place... course the same town had a liquor and gun shop...
posted by edgeways at 1:27 PM on July 22, 2010


Libraries are probably better off under the radar. As soon as teabaggers remember that there's a place where black people can learn stuff realize that libraries are buying videogames, and it's paid for with tax dollars, we become a (bigger) target.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:40 PM on July 22, 2010


Stop with the strikethrough stuff it's lazy and trite.
posted by Mister_A at 1:46 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


That link was entirely worth it for the NPR Gaga video.

Ari Shapiro is far too good looking for radio. Speaking of noms.

posted by Sara C. at 2:02 PM on July 22, 2010


A Hipper Crowd of Shushers

Like these?
posted by weston at 2:03 PM on July 22, 2010


Any discussion of libraries ought to include mention of Carnegie, no? My local branch, Temescal, still has graven in stone "Oakland Free Library," even after the sandblast cleaning and retrofit. My daughter volunteered there for years (you have time when you don't go to school) and, well, I heart the library. Cupcakes not so much.
posted by emhutchinson at 2:10 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now extend that analysis, burnmp3s, to the Post Office, or better yet, the guarantee of legal counsel when charged with a crime, e.g., and you have further evidence that even (some of) the Founders were comfortable with the notion of socializing certain services, as it were. I think this is evidence of wisdom, not something to regret, i.e., that the Founders were not farsighted enough to anticipate or design a state wherein all services are provided by (i.e., at the mercy of) the market. Now connect the idea of an informed citizenry being an indispensable requirement for an effective democracy with the idea that socializing the expense of providing some goods and/or services (e.g, access to information) to all, and voilà! The Public Library.

Well part of my point is that for a variety of reasons the way the US thinks about public services today is completely different than they way people thought about them hundreds of years ago. Again, thinking of an alternate universe that was exactly like ours but didn't have libraries, if the government decided to give people access to free books (which I think is unlikely) it would probably be in the form of free book vouchers for low-income people that could be redeemed at Borders rather than an actual building full of government-owned books run by government employees. The public defender system is a pretty good example of that kind of thing, rich people can pay for extremely skilled lawyers, whereas poor people can have access to some semblance of legal defense. Republicans are trying to do the same thing with the public school system through vouchers. The general view of public services is that they are for providing the bare minimum of essentials to people who are in need, rather than providing nice-to-haves to people who could afford to pay for them directly.

Well, a library has the advantage that once a book is bought, it can be lent out to many people. There's plenty of books in my library that are older than I am. And thanks to my library I can check out books on how to eat healthier, or I can check out books on how to grow healthy food.

Yes, but that's more of a result of how to most cost-effectively provide material to a community rather than a reason for libraries to exist. The Internet could make it easy to make pretty much every book available to pretty much everyone without having to waste any paper (which isn't to say dead tree books have no advantages over ebooks, but that's another discussion), and governments aren't exactly jumping on that opportunity. If anything governments and publishers are trying to kill libraries with DRM and laws like the DMCA, rather than trying to further the goals that libraries were meant to achieve.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:18 PM on July 22, 2010


No cupcake has ever made me feel this way.

No cupcake has ever made (nor will it ever make) me feel the way the library does and has done all my life, either, ever since I was a little kid and my mom took me by the hand and walked me through the big deceptively forbidding wooden doors of the Hill Avenue Branch Library and let me loose in the adult stacks. I'm sort of biased, but there it is.
posted by blucevalo at 2:24 PM on July 22, 2010


Don't libraries get most of their funding from local property taxes? "The government" is a pretty big umbrella, and local politics aren't the same as federal ones.
posted by aspo at 2:29 PM on July 22, 2010


Can I take this tangentially-related post as an opportunity to wring my hands a little bit over the trend to buy videogames for libraries?

I wish it were only that.
The next town over from me has "Video Game Night".
Which entails popcorn and Nintendo.
And as near as I can tell, not a shred anything approaching literacy.

But it's just another step on the "Library as Community Center" pathway. Something I've decried in other posts.
posted by madajb at 3:03 PM on July 22, 2010


> But it's just another step on the "Library as Community Center" pathway.

In the age of the internet (and shrinking budgets for community/after school centres, but that's a separate issue), libraries are being compelled to offer services that cannot be downloaded.*

* Video games can be downloaded, but you know what I mean.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:25 PM on July 22, 2010


aspo: there are several different ways that a library gets funding, and there is no single budget for a library. There are usually state consortiums of libraries which are funded through state taxes, there are some federal programs that give resources, and the rest comes from a county or city level (the majority, in fact). Changes and contractions can come from any of these sources, and it varies from state to state. I've heard that some libraries are totally independent based on which small town they're a part of and charge you for a card for each individual branch. I work in Maryland, which has a great system IMO, and freely shares resources and money across county borders.
posted by codacorolla at 4:09 PM on July 22, 2010


But it's just another step on the "Library as Community Center" pathway. Something I've decried in other posts.

I don't particuarly like adding videogames as part of a collection, but that's mainly because I don't think they make good lending items. I'm curious what your problem with "library as community center" is, since that's a philosophy that I honestly don't mind.
posted by codacorolla at 4:10 PM on July 22, 2010


In the age of the internet (and shrinking budgets for community/after school centres, but that's a separate issue), libraries are being compelled to offer services that cannot be downloaded.*

I don't have a big problem with lending games(that ship sailed long ago), but to setup a big TV, couches and whatever, and play Wii Golf (or whatever) in the middle of the library seems a bit much.
posted by madajb at 5:00 PM on July 22, 2010


I'm curious what your problem with "library as community center" is, since that's a philosophy that I honestly don't mind.

Philosophically: Because it's a cop-out and an easy way to avoid a problem.
Rather than have a dedicated space geared towards community involvement, you instead have community events shoehorned into a space not designed for them.
You shortchange your "clients", since you have librarians who'd rather be practicing librarianship playing ringmaster for events the rec staff should really be doing.

Personally: The library in my town is used as a dumping ground/mall substitute for bored teenagers.
I'd rather that had their own place designed for their particular needs because I don't really need to hear Ashley yelling at Connor for cheating on Madison at full volume across the atrium.
posted by madajb at 5:10 PM on July 22, 2010


I don't really need to hear Ashley yelling at Connor for cheating on Madison at full volume across the atrium.

my library doesn't even have yelling, let alone teenagers. libraries should have arenas for combat, blades clashing and pistols being shot every other odd minute just like they used to. the weak killed by the strong. society has become a mess. this is all due to those damnable books we should burn everything down and get back to papyrus if only there were more heidegger in the children's section
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:38 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would be sooo down for Library Wars! Imagine the challenges:

You have 10 minutes before a hoard of 4 year olds descends on the children's room. You must put together an age-appropriate storytime on the mystery theme, complete with a craft...without the use of the internet. Your secret ingredient is pipe cleaners and the mystery theme is.......orangutans! GO!
posted by Biblio at 6:25 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would be sooo down for Library Wars!

Someone needs to pitch this as a reality show to some producers.

As for the concept of having video games in our collection: we do it to get people in the door. The more people we get = more circulation stats = more money from the state. Plain and simple.
posted by Anima Mundi at 6:42 PM on July 22, 2010


Which entails popcorn and Nintendo.
And as near as I can tell, not a shred anything approaching literacy.


I think perhaps your definition of literacy should be expanded. Literacy long ago stopped being just about the written word.
posted by griffey at 7:46 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


since you have librarians who'd rather be practicing librarianship playing ringmaster for events the rec staff should really be doing.

Not piling on, but these jobs are competitive actually. If there are librarians who are doing jobs they don't like, then I agree that sucks for everyone, but the librarians that I know who do gaming nights are thrilled that they can do library stuff and gamer stuff and get paid.
posted by jessamyn at 8:02 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


This FPP suddenly made sense of an otherwise inexplicable obsession with cupcakes in my grad school's Facebook group. This is for the incoming class at UBC in Vancouver, so apparently the cupcake craze has penetrated the 49th parallel. I find the whole thing mystifying.
posted by smorange at 10:06 PM on July 22, 2010


The next town over from me has "Video Game Night".
Which entails popcorn and Nintendo.
And as near as I can tell, not a shred anything approaching literacy.


Heh, don't knock it. My oldest son seems to have learned to read from video games.
posted by not that girl at 10:33 PM on July 22, 2010


but the librarians that I know who do gaming nights are thrilled that they can do library stuff and gamer stuff and get paid.

I'm sure there are, I wouldn't claim to know the mind of every librarian, but my impression of these events is that they are more of the "get people in the door by any mean necessary" lean rather than "I get paid to play Wii, awesome!" lean.
posted by madajb at 2:39 AM on July 23, 2010


I'm a librarian who does video-game programs.

My attitude isn't exactly 'I get paid to play Wii, awesome!' but more of 'Here's an inexpensive all-ages program that attracts a loyal audience consisting largely of underserved groups like males and teenagers! Also, I get a chance to talk to kids about the history of electronic entertainment (and, when I do Guitar Hero/DDR/karaoke, pop music), make a case for video games as a legitimate art form, show that media need not be brand-new to be entertaining and enforce and model good sportsmanship.'

If I wanted to get people in the door by any means necessary, I'd have a different job.
posted by box at 6:32 AM on July 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


'Here's an inexpensive all-ages program that attracts a loyal audience consisting largely of underserved groups like males and teenagers! Also, I get a chance to talk to kids about the history of electronic entertainment (and, when I do Guitar Hero/DDR/karaoke, pop music), make a case for video games as a legitimate art form, show that media need not be brand-new to be entertaining and enforce and model good sportsmanship.'

Many negative things would attract males and teenagers. You could have UFC nights, for example. As for the other points, the first one, I'll grant has some value. But video games as art? I'm not convinced, even after playing through Ico and Heavy Rain and others. The last part: I'd much rather have kids do something healthy with their bodies to learn those lessons. Overall, I'm with Roger Ebert on this one. I think libraries are important and necessary institutions. They're necessary because books and literacy are necessary. I understand why libraries have branched out, but my local library doesn't touch video games and I hope they never start.
posted by smorange at 7:59 AM on July 23, 2010


When I was a girl (mid-80s) our library had Friday afternoon movies. (with a projector!) Which mostly consisted of Laurel & Hardy, but also included The Fishheads Song, and once as a special treat, The Hobbit. So it's not like this sort of not-books stuff is brand-spanking-new.

And I loved it, and I think my mom and my sister's friend's mom loved it, too. They got a chance to go look for books without us pestering or getting bored. Then when the movies were over, we went upstairs to the children's section to get our own books.

Wow. That brings back memories that I haven't thought about in a really long time.

But I think those sorts of activities -- along with my insane reading habit -- are part of what created my deep affection for libraries. I'm now secretary of the board of my local Friends of the Library group, FWIW. I donate money, I vote for library levies (etc), and I use the library a LOT.

Y'know, we had a fiery discussion at a Friends board meeting some months back about whether we should be spending money on food at events, with some of the members feeling that it was really inappropriate to even have food in the library.

The decision finally came 'round to the point of getting people in the door, and food being a means to that end. Also, that spending time together with food is an important activity in building community. (During the whole debate, I kept wanting to shout "Tell them there'll be punch and pie!" but I doubt that most of the other board members would have any idea WTF I was talking about.)

The final vote was in favor of funding food when requested, although it was the only time I've ever seen a vote with any nays. I think it speaks to the discomfort of figuring out what the library is, and what it's for, and who it's for.
posted by epersonae at 9:51 AM on July 23, 2010


Anyone up for an old-fashioned cupcake burning?

Only if this means a nice caramel or meringue brulée on top.

I love libraries, and I love cupcakes. Can't we all get along?

I've actually toyed with the idea of opening a bakery someday, perhaps featuring cupcakes. But I'm in Brooklyn, so the concentration of cupcakes in this city can be daunting for someone starting out.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:23 AM on July 23, 2010


Philosophically: Because it's a cop-out and an easy way to avoid a problem.
Rather than have a dedicated space geared towards community involvement, you instead have community events shoehorned into a space not designed for them.
You shortchange your "clients", since you have librarians who'd rather be practicing librarianship playing ringmaster for events the rec staff should really be doing.

Personally: The library in my town is used as a dumping ground/mall substitute for bored teenagers.
I'd rather that had their own place designed for their particular needs because I don't really need to hear Ashley yelling at Connor for cheating on Madison at full volume across the atrium.


I sort of agree. In my personal experience in a small town, where the library is about a mile's walking distance from the local middle school, we have problems with teenagers after school. A lot of their parents have to work, and can't pick them up before 5:00. They can't afford after school care, and the conservative government isn't about to spring for rec centers or boys and girls clubs. It's more like we have to offer programming as a way to connect to them - otherwise they solely see us as disciplinarians. The demos that we're seeing walking over from the school aren't the kind who tend to be devoted readers. What role does the library play in making them readers? Our YA position recently got cut back to part time, and adult reference isn't quite as specialized in dealing with that (very difficult) age group.

The library, especially in underfunded places where there really isn't a lot to do, is the only option. It's not so much that the library wants to be a community center (although it should) it's that it has no choice. The direction I'd like to see libraries going would be to partner with other community organizations, and be a sort of hub for free, community centered activity. Kids are going to be kids, especially afer sitting in school for 8 hours, and they need a place to let off steam that doesn't conflict with the place where people go to study, read, and look for jobs.

If you could have a building within walking distance open on after school hours with a basketball court, a social computer lab, and daily activities, then I think it would take the pressure off of the library and allow it to actually be a library. But I think the two organizations should cooperate. Let the community center have the basketball games, and let the library have the teen book discussions and home work clubs.

That's my ideal reality, anyway. Actuallity is that no one wants to pay taxes, and refuses to see the utility of having good public services, so the library has to pick up the slack.
posted by codacorolla at 11:19 AM on July 23, 2010


But I think the two organizations should cooperate. Let the community center have the basketball games, and let the library have the teen book discussions and home work clubs.

Sure, absolutely, I'm not suggesting teenagers not be allowed in the library, only that those kids who really just want to "hang out" be given a place to do so that isn't the library.

Too often a library is the default place and I think that "game nights", choir concerts, etc. just reinforce the idea that a community center isn't needed because "We already have the library for that".
posted by madajb at 2:25 PM on July 23, 2010


I always understood the difference between a community center and a library is that a community center is first and foremost a place to be, while a library is primarily a place to go. The difference isn't just word games. Being is a state, while Going is an activity. You can be hunting, that is the state of hunting, but to go hunting is the hunting. Similarly, one can be at a friend’s house and it does not designate anything in particular it merely identifies a state, a location, whatever. Going to a place is something to do. It is an action, not a state. Of course it can be a change of state, one can go to a library then be at the library, but in the end the question “what are you doing at the library” always seems to necessitate an answer to it. “I’m getting books?” is my usual snarky reply even if I am actually reading in a quiet alcove to avoid the computer. In contrast, the same question regarding the community center or a friend’s house doesn’t always need a real answer, “hanging out” they might say. Of course, I do hang out at the library quite a bit but I never do so in the main areas. This is why I say that the library is only not primarily a place to be. I would never dream of holding a conversation of any length within the library proper. Every time I’ve had a discussion among the shelves it fast becomes impossible to hold still. The approach of silent patrons repel the conversation sending us spiraling nomadically throughout the library, avoiding the gaze and ears of others in respect of their silent reading. Inevitably, we end up on on the lawn outside or in a room hidden away in a corner or downtown. Being at the library, as such, is an unstable state always collapsing into a going. The goal in the end, as the librarians in this thread keep saying, is getting people in the door, staying isn't so much the point. In contrast, the community center strains to give people a place to be, to make staying there as stable and comfortable as possible. Of course, the library gives people a place within the place to be, such as the study rooms or what have you, but the main floor is always a place to go and get the book and check out and read and study quietly. The community center inverts this at an architectural level and above. The main room is the place you can be, the side rooms are where you can never just be. The plentiful couches and televisions and layout of the flooring reveal this rather obviously. While the gymnasium is taken up by a new activity, the meeting room is scheduled for a workshop, the basketball court is being played on, the skatepark is full of energy, and so on, the main room is always available. In contrast, being in the main floor of the library collapses once whatever you are doing there is done. You can hide off with friends to play a game in a room, but the main room of the library is not just for anything. Symmetrically, the community center's main room is for nothing in particular. Now, it is certainly imaginable for a library to be within the domain of a community center, and often the hybrid library-community centers are just that. The ones I have seen have a main room that is a spacious boundary between community center on the right and the back, and the library tucked down the left. The library becomes just another functional room of the community center. But in the end the difference remains in that the library is built to be a place to go and get books in all the senses of the word ‘get’, with supplemental rooms for a variety of purposes, while the community center is engineered with no particular purpose except to be a place to be, with supplemental rooms with varying but precise functions.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:27 PM on July 23, 2010


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