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THE central branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia is an impressive building—its neoclassical facade looming over most of a block. But inside, though chandeliers still hang from the ceilings and the floors are of polished marble, there is a feeling of neglect. A musty taste hangs in the air; many of the books are rather battered. “The building opened in 1927 and we’ve really not touched it since then,” says Siobhan Reardon, the library’s president and director. “And you can tell.”
That, happily, is now changing. On September 11th Philadelphia announced it had secured a $25m grant from the William Penn foundation to update its old libraries. Yet libraries in general are struggling. Americans tell pollsters they love them, but fewer use them. In June the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency, published data showing that library visitor numbers have declined in recent years. Polling published on September 10th by the Pew Research Center, a think tank, revealed that more people say they are going to the library less than going more, with a sharp gap among the young.
More from The Economist.
This morning, Steve messaged me to tell me to look out the window, because "There's some weird rolling book thing down there." When I went down to investigate, I met Laura Moulton, who handed me a business card reading "Street Librarian," and explained that she recently received a RACC grant to fund a project called Street Books, a mobile library that provides books for the homeless. (Or "people living outside," to use the website's wording.) The bike-powered library has a small trailer full of 40-odd books—an impressively diverse collection skewing slightly toward regional authors (Jim Lynch, Benjamin Parzybok, Kevin Sampsell, Tom Robbins). While we spoke, Moulton shuffled through a stack of neatly labeled index cards, cataloguing a book that had just been returned—yes, cue nostalgia, she uses a card catalogue system. She told me that although she started the project with "no expectation that books would be returned," she's had about 6 books returned of 25 or so lent out since the project began in early June.
Interview with Sayeed Choudhury of Johns Hopkins University on the recent change by the National Science Foundation requiring researchers to submit data-management plans with their grant proposals.
In the Chronicle of Higher Education. Read it here.
At Slate, Dave Weigel breaks down the Republican Study Committee's proposal to cut $2.5 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years. Two points of interest for the arts: The RSC recommends cutting $167.5 million from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. That means cutting the entire fiscal year 2010 appropriation for both agencies. The proposal also targets the Save America's Treasures Program for $25 million, which is also its entire FY 2010 appropriation.
Other points of interest specific to the District: slashing the federal subsidy for WMATA ($150 million) as well as federal assistance to the District ($210 million).