Friday, July 12, 2013

Libraries as leaders


Today’s discussion with two librarians about the future of libraries was an eye opener.  On one hand the more experienced librarian was advocating for the status quo, the promotion of books and the development of stronger research skills through taking the time to research and write papers.  On the other hand the new to being a librarian espoused her idea that a library should become more of a technological reform centre encouraging people to come in and share their ideas and work in social situations. In essence I believe both are correct.

Libraries have been the one focal meeting point where ideas are discovered and discussed. Through the use of the books in the library people gain a better understanding of their world around them and are able to see how other people have handled similar problems and issues. Libraries are the research engines that have spurred and supported great minds for centuries. A teacher once said to me, “When in doubt, go to the library and find the answer.” Libraries still hold these values as they struggle with readership and a growing dependence on the internet. Fiction books are already moving towards e readers because of their storage capacity and portability.

To maintain their relevance libraries need to become more of a place for discussions among adults, places where non-fiction ideas are discussed and shared. They need to be the places where basic research is performed with their librarians being the research specialists, able to help those who perform research to find the materials they need in a technological way. Far too many people can perform a basic research for information but have little knowledge of the short cuts necessary to find the information they need quickly and accurately. Libraries also need to become the centre of historical research for a town, city or country. They need to be the collectors of the information. In essence libraries need to become stronger research centres.

It was interesting to hear the younger librarian simply sharing her thoughts rather than trying to convince her colleague that she was right. It was also interesting that the older librarian admitted she was resistant to change. Are we all not resistant at some point? The reality is we live in a changing world. To stay relevant we need to find a way to be more up to date. Libraries, and schools, should lead the charge.