A CNET senior editor questions the need for a library in today’s world and librarians are outraged. (I was outraged too, and then read his response on LISNews in the comments. He makes some very valid points on library problems that aren’t new problems.)
Then, Library Journal has a provocative story out today, Geeks Are the Future: A Program in Ann Arbor, MI, Argues for a Resource Shift Toward IT and librarians are outraged in response, if the comments mean anything.
A quick snapshot of one of the many Twitter conversations around this article:
and my response
Meanwhile, a new book is out, beginning a conversation to continue to pave a new path for the Library. The overarching theme of the book is that “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities” author R. David Lankes writes in The Atlas of New Librarianship.
Another way this can be said is through this quote:
“The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literacy incense must be burned or where one’s devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas.” –Norman Cousins, quoted in The Atlas of New Librarianship.
I’m still slowly working my way through the book and it’s going to take some time to take it all in and “process it” (a phrase I’ve been repeating too frequently lately). One of the many questions I’m asking going through the book comes back to how can the library be the delivery room for ideas? If people still have questions that need answers and the traditional reference desk/virtual reference desk concept is working in most places, how can we meet their needs? How can the library, or the librarians, uniquely serve the needs of each individual community? Time will tell if the Atlas answers my questions.
(I think it already has started to; but I’m saving my final verdict and thoughts for when I’m done with it. Why is it taking so long? It’s 400 pages Enough said. It’s intensive reading, but it’s easy compared to the political philosophy readings I worked through in college! I’ll take Lankes over Rousseau, Locke, or Hobbes any day!)
All three of these examples, and my comment on Twitter about the word reference, lead me back to the book “In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas have something missing” (notes are available from Erica Reynolds’ book talks at Computers in Libraries and at KLA), which I’m still working through. Two quote that Erica mentioned right at the beginning that capture the book,
“Because without a new way of viewing the world we will most assuredly succumb to employing the same kinds of thinking that created so many of our problems in the first place….” — Matthew May (emphasis mine)
“Because by nature we tend to add when we should subtract, and act when we should stop and think.” –Matthew May (emphasis mine)
Throwing out provocative ideas, pointing out problems, reframing the questions and problems, stepping back and thinking before reacting. I think all of these are valid approaches to the situations facing the library profession. And it’s an approach I’m going to continue to take.
What will the library look like? I can’t wait to find out.
If this post didn’t make much sense, I understand. There’s much in my head that isn’t out yet. I’m processing, always processing ideas and readings and presentations. Thanks for continuing this journey by reading, even when it doesn’t make very much sense yet.
Post-Note: After posting this tonight, I finally read Will Richardson’s “The “New” Normal“, which neatly fits in with some of the thoughts rattling around in my brain, including one soon-to-be-out notes from a TEDxOKC speaker on Education Reform.
He says a lot about education that’s worth your time, but it was his final paragraph that I wanted to add here:
In other words, this is going to take a while, and it’s not going to be without pain. What does eventually rise from the ashes will be dependent on each of us seeing the world differently for ourselves, our willingness to lead and participate in the change, and at the end, fighting hard for what we believe is best for our kids. —Will Richardson
I’ll append to his phrase, “What is best for our kids”, what is best for our communities, our nation and our world. And this quoted could be easily directed at libraries, journalism, business, higher ed, law, government (heaven forbid), the church, and communities.