Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Twenty-First Century Library: A Postmodern Commons

Alica C. White, Johanna Ezell.

Academic libraries and culture have long been partners. In addition to books, play scripts, musical scores, original paintings and other art forms fill stacks and special collections in libraries worldwide. Over the past decade or so, this partnership has been enriched but also transformed by the technological revolution and its far-reaching impact on librarianship. Libraries, formerly thought of as simply repositories for books and oases for reading, are now “portals” where patrons intercept and gather information as it is decomposed and reassembled to meet individual needs. Patrons who once sought refuge within libraries from the noisy, crowded, industrial society of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries now come to libraries seeking imaginative stimulation and broadened intellectual horizons. Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, has said the library has become “ … the DNA of our culture.” As mediators between society and the many building blocks of culture, libraries increasingly engage in arts programming and other cultural events. Libraries are also beginning to incorporate theater and public gathering spaces into renovations and new building designs. This paper will relate these wider technological, social and cultural tendencies to the operations, services and architecture of the Pennsylvania State University Mont Alto Campus Library. In particular, the paper will trace the recent evolution of the library as a center for information exchange, and as a setting for an increasing range of arts and cultural events.


Alica C. White  (United States)
Assistant Librarian
Mont Alto Campus Library
The Pennsylvania State University

Johanna Ezell  (United States)
Head Librarian

Pennsylvania State University

  • Libraries
  • Arts Programming
  • Culture

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)