I'm back at work after three weeks in the beautiful state of Michigan, where we saw three of the Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, and Huron). We couldn't afford to go abroad this year, and so decided on a vacation within the United States. Of course, at the time this plan was hatched, gas didn't cost $4.50 a gallon. Some highlights of our trip were visiting two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Grand Rapids, which has a large collection of well-preserved nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century houses; visiting the enchanting Dow Gardens in Midland (they were founded by the founder of the Dow Chemical Company, and I kept hoping against hope that the lush, green landscape around me wasn't the result of a heavy infusion of pesticides and fertilizers); the Toledo Museum of Art; the Detroit Institute of Arts, which has some real treasures, including The Wedding Dance by Pieter Brueghel the Elder; Ann Arbor, where we saw an interesting production of Mozart's Don Giovanni and I dragged my husband to the University of Michigan Law School Library hoping to see the famous grand reading room, which turned out to be shrouded in plastic and almost completely gutted as part of a renovation project--we did manage to see something of what's left of the room and spent some time going through the rest of the library, which is not under construction. It is always interesting to see what other libraries are doing, and I picked up a lot of handouts to share with my staff; Mackinac Island, which is a magical place, full of lilacs in bloom and fudge shops; a glass-bottom boat ride on Lake Superior, during which the boat hovered over three shipwrecks and we got an incredibly close look at the details of the ships; and Tahquamenon Falls, shown above, not as large as Niagara, but extremely scenic thanks to the dramatic color of the water. We got in a lot of walking and hiking, during which we learned why the mosquito is considered by some to be the Michigan state bird! I tried to keep up with OOTJ while I was away, but my computer access was sporadic at best; in fact, we couldn't even get cell-phone reception when we reached the Upper Peninsula and moved on to Ontario, which was frustrating. Fortunately, there were no crises at home or at work.
I wanted to share with readers this snippet from Inside Higher Education, which confirms what I have observed in my own library:
For all the talk about how the Internet might lead students and others to abandon libraries, there’s new evidence that any decline has been minimal. In a typical week in the fall of 2006, “gate count” at academic libraries was 18,765,712 — or an average of 5,188 per college or university library. The term refers to the number who physically enter and individuals who enter repeatedly are counted more than once. The figures come from “Academic Libraries 2006,” released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics. The average gate count per week per library is down 2 percent since 2004, the last time the agency conducted the survey. Other highlights of the new survey: The 3,600 academic libraries in the United States collectively hold 1 billion books and other paper materials; there were 221 libraries holding at least 1 million books and other paper materials; total expenditures were $6.2 billion — about half of that sum on salaries.
We have found that since we renovated our library last year, students have returned to use the new facilities. Maybe some of this is due to the new chairs, which are ergonomically friendly, and the enhanced lighting. It is hard to say, but there are times when almost every seat in the new reading room is in use. There is no better proof that we made the right decisions about our renovation than this--"butts in the seats," as one of my colleagues puts it.