Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Boston Athenaeum as a model for what central libraries should strive to be: Culture Centers with lots of books and other resources

Writings such as:

-- "Update: Neighborhood libraries as nodes in a neighborhood and city-wide network of cultural assets," 2019
-- "The DC Central Library, the Civic identity and the public realm," 2011
-- "The Salt Lake City Central Library is absolutely incredible," 2013
-- "Civic assets and mixed use: Central Library edition," 2013
-- "The Central Library planning process in DC as another example of gaming the capital improvements planning and budgeting process," 2013
-- "A follow up point about "local" library planning and "access to knowledge," 2013
-- "National Library Week," 2015

lay out the concept that libraries should be positioned not just as centers for knowledge but as centers for (community) culture.

One of the many best practice examples listed in "Neighborhood libraries as nodes" is the Boston Athenaeum:
a membership organization rather than a public library open to all, besides having an extensive book collection including rare books, there is an art collection with more than 100,000 items, a gallery space, and an extensive public program of lectures, readings, concerts and other events.
which just got a new administrator ("Veteran Harvard administrator will lead the Boston Athenaeum," Boston Globe).

Membership is pretty steep: $460/year, and a day pass is $40!

The Boston Athenaeum has had management and other issues as it continues as a membership organization in the context of a playing field where most libraries are public and broader cultural centers get both public and private support.

But it's still a good model for how central libraries can be more than just a place for books, but for culture more generally.

That being said, there are plenty of central libraries that already do just that, including Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Dayton, Ohio, etc.

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