(Open Grid Scheduler/Flickr)

Author Jorge Luis Borges once wrote, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Librarian historian Wayne Wiegand’s new book, “Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library,” explores the library’s importance as a civil and social space. We’ll discuss his book and why libraries are still flourishing in the Internet age.

Guests:
Wayne A. Wiegand, professor emeritus of library and information studies, Florida State University; author, "Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library."

  • EIDALM

    There is no way one can substitute the pleasure of holding and reading a real book in hand with that of reading it on line ,books can last in our libraries for centuries ,while e-books are there only for the moment .Some years ago I owned over a thousand book ,most were in science ,physics ,quantum mechanics ,special and general relativity ,nuclear reactor theory ,low temperature physics ,plasma physics ,and of course lots of advance mathematics books ,till have most of them ,still gets lots of pleasure holding and reading them….One of my favorite books is U C professor Charles Kettle ,Solid State Physics which I also taught….This book in my library is very dear to me because my late dad walked 5 miles to buy it for me ,from a bookstore in the city of Cairo over 30 years ,every time I hold this book ,it brings lots of great and pleasant memory of my dad ,I also have updated copy of the same book autographed by professor Kettle while I was his teaching assistant in the physics department at Cal…

  • Well Duh

    The library as a “civil and social space” oh please! SFPL is a de facto homeless shelter, mental ward and day care center…oh yeah and drunk tank.

    • De Blo

      Check out the neighborhood branches. They do not have the problems of the Main Branch.

  • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

    I used to love going to the library to read books and learn new things. That’s a LOT more difficult in San Francisco now because the library stinks to high heaven and the bathrooms are positively dangerous. Can’t this wealthy city come up with better places for the derelicts to spend their day? Who wants to touch books or even chairs that have been handled by people who haven’t bathed in over a week? The security guards have to make regular rounds to wake these people up and/or stop them from watching porn on library computers (which others can easily see). I used to go to meetings there that provided much needed services for language learners, writers, tenants, and so on, but now I don’t feel safe there.

  • Ben Rawner

    Growing up the library was the greatest place. from reading groups to Internet access, it was the place to be where knowledge was accessible. SFs current library situation is sad because many of the homeless take refuge there and their smell is horrific. Outside of SF, libraries are central to community gathering in an ever shrinking public space.

    • De Blo

      I love San Francisco’s public libraries; I use them virtually every
      week. So far I have used the Main, Portola, Excelsior, Noe Valley,
      Bernal Heights, Castro, Glen Park, Marina, and Mission branches. I love
      that we can return books, DVD’s, and CD’s to any location and that
      renewals are so easy online. Plus, the libraries have so many readings
      and interesting cultural events and displays. Like parks, San Francisco
      does libraries right and they are one example of how government can
      truly work and return so much to the community. Other than the Main Library in the Civic Center (where it is a serious problem), I have not seen bums or dirty people in the libraries. I have lived all over the country and have never seen such an amazing, successful, and vibrant library system as San Francisco’s. Try checking out the neighborhood branches; they are not dirty.

  • Dave Remeta

    May I put in a plug for the importance of school libraries – I will never forget the library in my high school (San Juan High- Citrus Heights CA) I would hang out there in my lunch period and pore over Life magazines from the WWII period among many other things, with other nerds like myself. That was my introduction into the world of literature, art, and the entire world.

  • Natasha

    I rediscovered the library after my kids were born. The children’s section of the Main SF branch is a little oasis in the middle of the city. Whether we go for story time or just to pick up a new batch of books, it’s always one of the highlights of our week.

  • William – SF

    Library card is a must have.

    As a kid I mostly read the newspaper, rarely books in the library – boy did I miss out.

  • Ben Waldo

    Love this program, and the opportunity for public discussion. In response to several of the comments below, however, I would have to say that it is not libraries that have changed for the worse but San Francisco. I increasingly hear comments from San Francisco residents on this program which highlight a trend towards a sense of entitlement for a sterile city where the poor should just be put out of sight. I moved to the East Bay several years ago from Minneapolis for school, and came with the halcyon dream of bohemian San Francisco in hand. I think the East Bay has increasingly become the bearer of this torch while fortress San Francisco now belongs to the privileged who would rather not share their city, even such sacred public space as libraries.

    • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

      I’m all for having shelters open to provide the homeless with basic needs, such as food, basic medical care, warm showers, and clean clothes. These services do not include access to porn. I work for a church help center, in fact. Many visitors to the library deface books and ruin other materials that should be free accessible to everyone and in decent condition. When people bathe or wash clothes in bathroom sinks, that blocks access to those of us who need to use the facilities for he purpose intended.

  • Robert Thomas

    Due to circumstances, my best library experiences have been my schools’ facilities – particularly, my elementary and middle schools’ libraries of the 1960s.

    While writing a paper on magnetic levitation technology for my high school physics class, I went to the San Jose State engineering library and in the stacks there found ten years of IEEE Transactions on Magnetics. This was where the immensity of human knowledge available to me really made its first impact. I was stunned that such a wealth could be exploited with so little effort.

    The other time this happened was upon discovering Henry Miller’s Reflections On The Death Of Mishima, while looking randomly through shelves. I was floored and read the entire work (only fifty pages) before sitting down again.

  • linda siemers

    My husband uses the SF Library system at least once a week,we get books and movies and cds…When our daughter was a baby and every Wednesday was library and pizza night, She got her first library when she was 3 and knew how to print her first name. she would check out around 5 books a week…as a result as an adult she is an avid reader.. when she was older ever summer she would participate in the summer reading programs…the library has so much to offer it would be a shame no to have them

  • Deepa Nair

    I have always loved visiting libraries back home in India. 8 years back when I moved to SF, the library became a comforting space away from home. I remember spending the first few months at the civic center library reading, attending library events and simply getting acquainted with the new city. In fact, I had more meaningful conversations with folks I met at the library than outside it. The library was my solace, comfort and home in many ways.

  • Mjhmjh

    Our local library decided to divest itself of most of its books. I was shocked, but can understand the logic behind the decision. Nowadays, when looking for information, most people start with the internet. And, fortunately, our library has many computer stations. However, the same library also has a cultural program, offering free “sampling” of local live opera, musical and drama performances. Given that tickets for such productions are almost always unaffordable for low-income families. I think it a superb service to the community.

  • Robert Thomas

    The book mobile was where I checked out my first book at age four – The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.

  • Mjhmjh

    The high school library is often also a much-valued place of refuge for students who have socialization difficulties.

  • Pontifikate

    Before public libraries existed in the west, The Mechanics Insititute in SF served as a library and cultural hub. Still does at 160 years old.

  • Anne Long

    I was the nanny for my 3-year-old grandson when his mother hid his favorite book because it was encouraging bad behavior. At the public library story time, sitting on my lap, Jack looked up and excitedly pointed out the book, only its spine visible on the top shelf: “No, David” by David Shannon. When his Mom got home that evening, I told her “Jack learned a valuable lesson today: when a book is banned, you can get it at the public library.”

    • Memyself&I

      Books should never be banned. What you ban in your own home is your business, but don’t me, or my offspring, what we can or cannot read.

  • Ben Rawner

    What are some of the cultural differences regarding rain in different climates such as deserts versus rain forests, and how have these cultures adapted art and habits in reference to rain or the lack thereof?

  • De Blo

    I love San Francisco’s public libraries; I use them virtually every week. So far I have used the Main, Portola, Excelsior, Noe Valley, Bernal Heights, Castro, Glen Park, Marina, and Mission branches. I love that we can return books, DVD’s, and CD’s to any location and that renewals are so easy online. Plus, the libraries have so many readings and interesting cultural events and displays. Like parks, San Francisco does libraries right and they are one example of how government can truly work and return so much to the community.

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