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Today I visited our local public library, an imposing and vast edifice, a marvel of modern architecture. Since architecture is not my forte, here is a description of the building from Missouri Life:

Built in 2002, the Columbia Public Library is a noteworthy design by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates. The 102,000-square-foot library is housed within a dynamic, dramatic cylindrical form. The design is a prime example of the architecture firm’s approach: collages of styles, colliding forms, and superimposing one plan idea onto another to yield geometric and dramatic interior spaces. Large skylights are “carved” from the curved, masonry cylinder to introduce abundant natural light. Shifted grids, diagonals, and a range of materials, colors, and textures result in a more informal and humanistic architecture. The corner site at Broadway and Garth Avenue is also arranged in a highly geometric plan, with the building’s crescent shaped plan and half-circle parking lot forming a complete circle. Paving patterns emanate outward from the building and its entry.

The building is as imposing and wonderful as the description makes it sound. There are computers, a massive video collection, a vast selection of music…I guess that with all of this pomp and excess that there just wasn’t any money left over for books.

This library has such a shoddy collection of books that it should be ashamed to even call itself a library. I did a keyword search for “epicureanism” it had not a single book available to checkout and take home. There were audio books and ebooks and just a couple of dead tree books that I could have gotten on a waiting list to check out. Surely this could not be. So I tried “Epicurean” to see if they just had a weak key word system, same result. Perhaps the curators are biased against Epicureans, I tried “Stoicism”, same result. “Stoic”, same result. WTF? Let’s broaden our terms, “Hellenistic Philosophy”, same result. OK, ancient philosophy is not this library’s strong suit, lets change subjects. “Kropotkin”, same result. “Emma Goldman”, same result. Really?

It is nice that the library system (Daniel Boone Regional Library) subscribes to a fairly large collection of digital books. Some of the ebooks are created from Project Gutenberg books which are public domain and created by volunteers. There are multiple problems with the way that these books are implemented for lending. First, why make one sign in to download a book that is in the public domain? Secondly, why check them out for a limited time, why not just let the user download a drm free ebook that they can keep? Thirdly, and most egregious, the library violates the Project Gutenberg license in multiple ways. In direct violation of the license the ebooks are stripped of the license, the library also utilizes Project Gutenberg’s trademarks without license compliance.

All in all the Columbia Public Library is a perfect example of putting form above function. Truly sad to have such a grand building and to have inept curators and administration.

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