What happened to the reference section?
"It's been moved to the third floor," says a librarian at the information desk. The third floor, not accessible to the public, is an unfinished space used for storing periodicals, old furniture and library files. "If there's a particular book you're looking for," she adds, "I can get it for you."
But what if patrons don't know what they're looking for? How would they browse the section?
The librarian doesn't have an answer. Instead, she asks, "Would you like to fill out a complaint form?"
Another librarian, passing within earshot, mutters, "Please do."
Library Director Sona Dombourian says the reference section was moved earlier in the month to make way for more computers. "We're doing some rearranging," she says. "As libraries change, we're finding quite a bit of the information traditionally found in books are now available through our electronic databases over the Internet. So we're relocating some of those reference books. We have a storage space currently up on our third floor, and we're relocating some of those lesser used books, putting them up on the third floor."
But the entire collection, not just a handful of books, were moved upstairs and out of the public's reach. Dombourian says the move, in part, was only temporary, and that some of the reference section will find its way back onto the second floor after setting up the new computers and determining which books patrons use the most. In the meantime, the library will allow patrons conducting research to access the third floor.
The reference collection was downsized once before in 1998 when the library first added computers. One in every four of the main branch's patrons utilizes the computers. There are currently 30 computers for public use in the library, and the new additions will bring that number to 57 for Internet use, Microsoft Office applications, database access and children's educational games.
A week after contacting Dombourian about the move, some of the reference materials had returned to the shelves and a few empty work stations without computers were in place. Sources close to the library say there never was any intention of moving any of the section back to the second floor until The Independent Weekly inquired about the move. Dombourian now says that as librarians pull reference books from the third floor, they are simply re-shelving them on the second floor.
But the decision to move the collection, Dombourian says, was not hers. "The department head is the one who actually made that decision," she says. "I was not aware of it. I'm sorry to say that I often spend many days in meetings and in my office, and I don't always get to walk the floor."
"It's kind of a chicken and egg kind of thing," Dombourian adds. "What do you do first? Do you move the books to put the computers and then put the books? Do you put the computers down, but then everything's real crowded and then you shift again? While I did not make the call to move those books right now, the reason they moved the books right now was so that they could then clean off the shelves and easily move the shelves to put the computers."
Libraries across the nation are finding themselves in this peculiar pinch, trying to balance patrons' access to books with the increased demand for computers.
Leslie Burger, president-elect of the American Library Association, is also the director of the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, New Jersey. She says that while reference sections are integral to the operation of libraries, how that information is acquired is changing. "Many people now rely on the Web to get a lot of those same resources," she says. "Many libraries have increasingly purchased digital content on the Web through a subscription to replace some of those print resources. That is becoming very common." And the greatest advantage for patrons, she says, is that they have access to the latest updated information.
Burger's library moved into a new facility in 2004, and in the process it threw away many of its reference books and quadrupled the number of computers. There are 100 computers in the Princeton library that she says are in use "all day, every day." But before making that move, she and her staff studied which books were being used the most. She says, "Generally speaking, I would say the trend is to begin shrinking those print collections because so much of that content is either available through the Web or digitally. So many libraries are putting in more computers than books at this point." Dombourian says there was not a survey or study conducted on the reference section before moving it.
In addition to dealing with how patrons access information, Dombourian says the main library is also dealing with the added problem of space constraints. This spring, the main branch will begin a planning process for a complete renovation, as part of the $40 million bond approved by Lafayette residents in November 2002. Residents will be able to offer their ideas on improving the 30-year-old facility. After being put out for bid, renovations should begin in 2009.
For now, Dombourian says there's no need to be alarmed by the glaring empty shelves on the second floor. "Our intent is to improve our services to the public, and I think that's what this is," she says. "But at some point, someone notices, and I'm actually quite flattered that somebody noticed. It kind of gives me that warm fuzzy that someone's still using our books, and books are still important in life. I think that's wonderful."
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand: