"A library has limited shelf space, so you almost have to think of it
as a store, and stock it with the things that people want," said Jason
Kuhl, the executive director of the Arlington Heights Memorial
Library. Renovations will turn part of the library's first floor into
an area resembling a bookshop that officials are calling the
Marketplace, with cozy seating, vending machines and, above all, an
abundance of best sellers.
Today's libraries are reinventing themselves as vibrant town squares,
showcasing the latest best sellers, lending Kindles loaded with
e-books, and offering grass-roots technology training centers. Faced
with the need to compete for shrinking municipal finances, libraries
are determined to prove they can respond as quickly to the needs of
the taxpayers as the police and fire department can.
"I think public libraries used to seem intimidating to many people,
but today, they are becoming much more user-friendly, and are no
longer these big, impersonal mausoleums," said Jeannette Woodward, a
former librarian and author of "Creating the Customer-Driven Library:
Building on the Bookstore Model."