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Past, Present & Future of Libraries: A Conversation

A mind-expanding conversation about libraries, past, present, and future — complete with snacks and mojitos — makes for a great start to the workweek. Last night, Libraries Without Borders held a panel discussion fundraiser on the topic “Past, Present & Future of Libraries.” Special guest Matthew Battles, author of Library: An Unquiet History, talked about his research into libraries as artifacts reflective of the particular beliefs and values of their times and places; and about libraries as metaphors/archetypes and what their preservation (e.g., “ghetto libraries” during the Holocaust for remembrance and hope) or destruction (a means of control and erasure during the Bosnian War) can indicate. “We should never take libraries for granted,” he reminded us, nor should we take for granted that the mere existence of a library means people automatically know how to use it (et voilà, librarians!). Also check out the Library Test Kitchen, for which Battles is associate director, part of the MetaLab at Harvard and in collaboration with our Simmons School of Library and Information Science colleagues, and add your own “recipe.”

Matthew Battles, Katherine Trujillo, Liz Phipps Soeiro.

Libraries Without Borders director of communication and advocacy Katherine Trujillo and school librarian and Libraries Without Borders advisory board member (and great Friend of The Horn Book) Liz Phipps Soeiro continued the conversation with Battles, facilitated by executive director of Libraries Without Borders Allister Chang, and then opened up discussion to the group. There was a lively showing, with people from both school and public libraries; representatives from Cambridge (MA) city government (city council, school committee, the mayor’s office); academics and library school students; parents and community members. Questions ranged from the pros and cons of digitization to policy recommendations to the hunt for “truth and verifiable facts” (or lack thereof) in public discourse to the question of what is a library? It was a great event — and La Fábrica Central restaurant provided a wonderful space (see also: snacks and mojitos).

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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