What is information and is it what we still do in public libraries?

I keep hearing and reading about how libraries are all about information. I’ve been hearing and reading that for years. I work in a public library and although information is still what we do as librarians, our reference questions have greatly reduced and information sources are not the highest lending parts of our collections. Most of our collections and our loans are in fiction – whether it be adult, YA or children’s novels, audiobooks or DVDs etc. I never thought of fiction as information.

When I mentioned this in passing to a colleague at a library event where it had once again been raised, he said it depended on your definition of information. 

It seems that these days there are many definitions of information.  I did a bit of an explore and found that as Hamish Curry did in his presentation at the Emerging Technology Forum 2012, that when people think of libraries they think of information. But is that what they come to us for?  What do they consider information? Do they see fiction as information?

Although I don’t have an answer to that question, it at least got me thinking about what information do we provide?

It turns out that we do provide quite a bit. Some of the ways my library provides information as well as access to it include:

  • Non-fiction lending collections including DVDs and audio-books
  • Magazines
  • Daily newspapers
  • Internet connectivity, both via PC and WiFi to access the wider world of information (amongst other things)
  • Electronic resources
  • Short seminars on a wide range of topics
  • Library staff, who help people find the information they need, either in our collections or on the Internet
  • Library staff who share local knowledge to help people find what they need in the local community
  • Local history collection
  • Outreach visits, to not only promote the library, but to help those being visited fulfill their needs – with that resource the library has
  • School visits to again showcase what they library can do, but to also help with information literacy skills
  • Teaching our users information literacy skills
  • Teaching our users computer skills
  • And much, much more……

So I don’t know if fiction is information, but a lot of what we provide, both directly and indirectly, still is.  So next time someone says that libraries are about information, I will be thinking beyond the collections to all the other ways we help our users get the information they want or need.