Monday, May 27, 2024

A conference room awaits use as the Cambridge Main Library opens in November 2009 after renovations. (Photo: Marc Levy)

A tweet from Saturday out of San Diego suggesting libraries stay open later – so “we could engage in public life there instead of having to choose between drinking at the bar and domestic isolation” – has already been liked some 185,000 times and retweeted more than 39,000 times as of Monday, with discussion afterward that seems virtually endless.

While there are complications with such an idea, and the debate gets pretty sharp at times (this is, after all, the Internet), it’s a happy coincidence that Cambridge gets to have the same conversations Wednesday and Thursday and next month “about your hopes, dreams and aspirations for Cambridge and how the library can contribute to this future.”

The community forums (more are coming March 5, March 7 and March 9) are part of updating a library strategic plan to guide us through the next three to five years, along with an online survey up through March 11. Information is at

City councillor Dennis Carlone is among those who have already expressed a preference for more hours at the library and its half-dozen branches (which can serve as warming or cooling centers, depending on the climate change emergency), namely for Sunday hours in summer, when those hours may most be needed by families. It’s a difficult time for staffing, director of libraries Maria Taesil Hudson McCauley told the City Council – but Carlone has pointed out that this is a perfect opportunity to fill in staff gaps with interns and trainees, library science students eager for real-world experience for their résumés.

The idea is in line with intergenerational efforts local leaders have talked up for years, though usually in discussion of vocational skills and, more recently, to inspire new police officers with a grounding in the community. It’s a good idea, and anything that can be done to add hours and services to our libraries is a plus for the community; inconsistent hours and days at branch libraries is unfortunate, as is keeping business hours at the Main Library on Friday and Saturday. Sunday hours of 1 to 5 p.m. is almost as sad as being closed Sundays in the summer.

This is a great conversation to have. For obvious reasons, it’s better to bring it to the libraries than hold it online.