Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Sad But True: Libraries in Malls

Prisilla Gluckman reads to her four-year-old son Oscar Gluckman at Bookmarks, a Dallas Public Library Branch at NorthPark Center mall in Dallas.

I’m back from a whirlwind summer trip to the Midwest for a family wedding and a week in Ptown for a writing fellowship. Hope you’re enjoying the langourous days of summer. It’s hot as hell in Boston.

In the Sad But True Files: a Dallas public library moved into a shopping mall two years ago, and found that it circulates “as many items as branches eight times its size.” Seems as if the librarians have increased usage of the public library by locating it to a hub of commerce. An informal tally of U.S. public libraries in shopping malls puts the number at about two dozen branches.

Good or bad thing? Or both?

The cynic in me sees it as part of the trend toward devaluing literature and reading. Why draw a line between art and commerce? Oprah’s Book Club may be another study in ambivalence: How can it be bad for publishing and literature if Oprah sells all those books?

After all, who needs to make a separate stop at the library when you can pick up a jalapeno cheese pretzel and a sweater on sale at Abercrombie and Fitch at the same time?

Filed under: consumerism, libraries, literature, , , , , , ,

Save Boston’s Public Libraries

How many of us have relished the peace and community afforded by our libraries? I know that I’m not alone in my love for libraries: the quantifiable value of literature on shelves; the shared desire for knowledge acquisition; the simple pleasure of reading in a space in which you are seated at the same table as your fellow bookworm.

Sure, it’s great to access the Internet. But it’s even better to give yourself time to open the pages of a book and allow the ethereal process of reading to engulf your senses.

In Boston, the city has threatened to close 8-10 branch libraries. This is not a small number–10 out of 26 libraries is nearly half of the city’s public libraries. Mayor Menino and members of the City Council have decided that shuttering small libraries will help make up for the city’s $3.6 million budget shortfall.

It’s a shameful tactic to attack public libraries. What does the mayor have to do with the potential closings? According to the grassroots organization People of Boston:

The mayor appoints all of the trustees. The trustees are not vetted and are not confirmed by anyone. The trustees vote on the budget that goes to the city. Thus, it could be said that the mayor controls the budget that is sent to him. The mayor has also made his opinion clear, calling for the closure of branches (as well as community centers — schools are also at risk due to a budget gap). This is a choice that he has made despite the fact that he has the power (through city reserves) to fill the budget gap and he has a choice to push for cuts to state services instead.

My hunch is that the branches to be closed will not be chosen with the local community’s interest in mind, but because they are the least economically viable. Let’s hope that if it comes down to it (which I hope it doesn’t) that the closed branches will not be in the poorest neighborhoods of Boston: Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan. Join me and write an email to your city councilor to protest this wrong-headed move.

Filed under: boston, libraries, literature, , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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