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Santa Monica (near where I live) recently re-opened its public library. A lot of shelf space was sacrificed for meeting rooms. They're basically white board equipped conference rooms with tables and chairs. You walk through there, and see all sorts of groups of people meeting in those rooms, talking animatedly. It's kind of fun to imagine what they're meeting about, I've seen evidence of startups, community groups, etc. based on what's on the board. The rooms are pretty sound-proofed, so you don't hear them as you're perusing the books. There's also quiet study rooms where you can do your business if you want to be absolutely quiet. A lot of space was devoted to a cafe area, which is nice for doing coffee-shop-style laptop work (except they won't kick you out).

Santa Monica is the position of being an economically well-off city (and thus able to afford such a lavish library) with a significant homeless/poor population, which is very well represented in the library. For areas in the midst of complete economic blight, I doubt there's as many niceties opening up--which is sad.

As is the point of the article, in the midst of all this Information Age online-this and online-that, there's a sad lack of civic-mindedness. How does the community as a whole uplift the people within it who are not doing as well? I doubt most of the higher-end property-tax payers in Santa Monica actually go to the library--and it is clearly servicing the people paying the least (or nothing) for it. Sadly, most of the rhetoric I see on the public policy level is, "I was in line at Albertson's and saw someone buying a steak with their food stamps!!! And a bottle of wine! How dare they? You should only be able to buy lima beans and tepid water with food stamps."

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