This is the third installment in our series 'Libraries in Crisis.' The opening piece, about how cuts threaten the public library, can be read here.
"So the question, and it's a huge question, is, 'What even is a library anymore?'" said Cesar Pelli, the world-renowned architect and designer of the Minneapolis Central Library.
While this large urban library has greater resources than many of its suburban and rural counterparts -- the building itself, which opened in 2006, cost some $138 million -- librarians across the country are looking to institutions such as this to show the way forward. For their part, the librarians here say their hope is that this library can be more of a cultural center than a book repository.
When visitors walk into the Minneapolis building, the first collection they see is about 300 computers, each of which is in use about 90 percent of the time. Nationwide, the number of physical books borrowed from libraries is slowly declining, although books remain a core reason why people visit their libraries. The staff in Minneapolis estimates that computer access is the primary reason that most patrons, especially low-income and unemployed people, visit."