About a month ago, there was a flurry of posts in the biblioblogosphere, related to an article in the Lawrence Journal-World. In response to a debate on whether Lawrence should get a brand new library building , triple its current size, Mark Hirsched wrote a piece “Libraries are limited, obsolete“. Wow, did it get a response.
I recommend you check out the original article, when I checked, there were over 60 comments.
You should also check out the following responses in the biblioblogosphere:
- Going to the boneyard - at blyberg.net
- Libraries=obsolete?? – at What I learned today (with a nice quote in the comments)
- Ten things I know about libraries in 2006 – at Tame the Web
- Libraries are obsolete — No sir, I beg to differ – at Librarian in Black
I got hot under the collar when I first read it, as did many other librarians. However, John Blyberg put an interesting spin on it, which got me thinking. Although his criticisms are unfounded (in soooo many ways), here is the voice of a non-user speaking loud and clear. What can we learn from it?
I was pleased to see that many of the comments on the article came from both sides of the argument, including users and librarians. It would be even better if a major article could appear in response to the original, with the same prominence – thereby offering both sides of the story in a major way, rather than just the response as a byline.
I don’t know the situation in Lawrence, but from reading the comments attached to the original article, it seems that some people believe its too much money and that rather than having a large central library, either the existing one could be overhauled or new smaller satellite libraries in outer areas could be built instead, taking the library to the public rather than expecting them to come in. More libraries at point of need – it may not be financially feasible, but it could be considered.
The usual concern about the public not knowing what libraries can do for them comes up everywhere throughout this process. They know we have computers but not the resources they can access (besides the internet), through them or from anywhere with their library card. That is an issue that I don’t think anyone has been able to resolve and unfortunately I don’t have the answers either, but we have to keep trying.
Mark Hirschey says he has devoted his life to education, does that mean he hasn’t noticed that students are using the Internet, with its often unreliable sources as their only source of information for research. Several librarian bloggers have posted recently on students who have used Wikipedia exclusively as their research tool – including a uni student preparing a theses proposal (See Ruminations). A recent C|New News.com article also expressed the need for libraries in this instant with the article “Most reliable search tool could be your librarian“.
I’ll let you read and think on the rest. Most of my concerns are addressed by the other blog entries I have referred to. In the meantime, I will re-read Mark Hirschey original post, to find out what else we can learn from our detractors and brainstorm about how we can adapt our services to meet the needs of each of our community’s and also to let all our public know, not just our current users, of the treasures available from and within their local library.