You can play the ukulele, learn photography or record a song in a top-flight studio. You can also check out a book
The Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, a building of pale concrete and greenish glass, rises four stories in midtown Memphis. Walking through its automatic doors on a weekday afternoon, I hear unexpected sounds, muffled but unmistakable, almost shocking in a library context: the deep, quaking bass beats of Memphis hip-hop, plus a faint whine of power tools cutting through metal.
It’s difficult to summarize the myriad changes taking place in American public libraries, but one thing is certain. Libraries are no longer hushed repositories of books.
Here at the Central branch in Memphis, ukulele flash mobs materialize and seniors dance the fox trot in upstairs rooms. The library hosts U.S. naturalization ceremonies, job fairs, financial literacy seminars, jazz concerts, cooking classes, film screenings and many other events—more than 7,000 at last count.
You can check out books and movies, to be sure, but also sewing machines, bicycle repair kits and laptop computers. And late fees? A thing of the past.