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Public Libraries and Resilient Cities by…

Public Libraries and Resilient Cities

by Michael Dudley

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Review for Catholic Library World by Reviewer: Michael F. Bemis, Freelance Reference Book Reviewer, St. Paul, Minn.

This book holds the paradoxical distinction of being both uplifting and depressing at the same time. The gist of editor Dudley’s argument is that libraries are an integral part of the urban social fabric, as necessary and beneficial as the post office or fire department. Fair enough, but from this writer’s perspective, isn’t that self-evident? Judging by his comments in the Preface and the first chapter, “The Library and the City,” the answer must surely be “no,” at least as far as our elected officials are concerned.
Be that as it may, 13 additional chapters highlight library success stories by showcasing the good works that these most public of institutions perform, beyond the obvious ones. Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, for example, is on the forefront of the battle against such social problems as illiteracy and unemployment, while libraries in Massachusetts have taken on the issue of hunger among children by instituting a Summer Food Service Program. While the focus is on metropolitan areas of the United States, one chapter takes a look at the socioeconomic contributions that libraries make in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Throughout this slender volume, emphasis is placed on the concept of resilience, which Dudley suggests could be thought of as a kind of elasticity, an ability to bounce back from “…challenging circumstances, whether these are straitened economic conditions or outright disaster” (Preface, p. x). Far from being merely quiet places to read a book, today’s libraries are reaching out to their many and disparate constituencies, and in so doing are helping to level the playing field, with the ultimate goal of attaining social equity.
Frankly, this book should be required reading for any politician who loves to spout the mantra of “doing more with less,” as it shows in stark relief what our public libraries are capable of accomplishing. Besides the desks of city council members and state legislators, this book is highly recommended for the shelves of all public and academic libraries. ( )
  bemislibrary | Jan 18, 2014 |
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