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."
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.