Visiting Libraries Over the Holidays

I am spending my holiday down at the southern tip of Texas. Harlingen, Texas, to be exact, which is about thirty minutes north of the Mexican border. The culture down here is very agricultural/technical based and was a culture shock for a family moving down from academic based New Jersey, as my family did 5 years ago.

It was also a shock to go from a place where we had access to not only the school library, but the town library and county library which were both large in addition to multiple Barnes and Nobles, Borders and Walden Books within driving distance.

Quite the opposite exists down here. For a while we had a small Walden bookstore in the town’s mall but now that has closed down and the closest bookstore is 45 minutes away. For an avid reader that is definitely a sad thing.

The library here is small and to meet the needs of its public must fill its small shelf space with a large amount of Spanish language books as well as Large Print Books (it’s a popular winter destination for Senior Citizens). The library does a great job connecting to its public with services and computer for access but their focus on these points seem to sometimes eclipse their collection methods.

It’s a challenge for libraries sometimes to keep the balance, especially in a small town where the library does not have a lot of resources. However some can make it work. Next week I am going to talk to the Director of the Mcallen Public Library (the town that also hosts our closest book store) which run the 2012 ALA Design award for their renovation of a previously shut down Walmart.

Be sure to stop by and see how Mcallen manages to provide such a beautiful space and also balance it with great programs and a great collection.

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