Alchemical Thoughts

Preliminary thoughts, with notes, on the demise of the library

Posted on: November 9, 2009

There are days when I wonder if my profession as a whole has a death wish. Not only do outsiders rail on and on about how libraries need to be closed, how they will "evolve" into new spaces (that have nothing to do with the mission of an actual library), or how no one really needs them, but librarians and library professionals insist on deprofessionalizing their own profession, taking the library apart piece by piece, turn it into an arcade or entertainment center, and pretty much go for the lowest common denominator. Of course, if you mention any of this, and you put your name on it as I am doing now, you risk the ire of your professional brethren who will label you as someone who "does not get it." I am not quite sure what to make of the whole mess. Sure, I have my opinions, but I just don't feel like writing a whole post about it.

I have seen a good number of items that have given me food for thought, so here they go in my notes. Maybe some writing will come out of it, maybe not. But I cannot help but wonder why do my professional brethren insist of self-destruction?

  • Two members of ACRL debate about the future of academic libraries, and from the looks of it, take a mild common ground where they toss the ball and say, "who knows what will happen." Not exactly something to inspire confidence. The event is reported by Inside Higher Ed in "Bookless Libraries?
  • Campus Technology looks at the 21st century library as "A Space to Collaborate." Mostly highlights of a new very elegant digital library in Calgary and a few other places. In other words, an example of what gets done when you have a lot of funding to do it and people who think that electronic will overtake everything else. 
  • Here is the Effing Librarian on "The Future of the Library Cafe." He has a way of using jokes and satire to make serious points that I like because often makes issues very accessible to others. This is definitely worth a look. He also has a new advocacy poster to help keep libraries open.
  • Then again, we need reassurance that "librarians still have vital role in the Web 2.0 era." Good to know that librarians are not headed for the scrap heap and have to start taking Geritol just yet. The article found via Resource Shelf.
  • And via Inside Higher Ed, here we have another college administrator speaking on "Libraries of the Future" where "the university library of the future will be sparsely staffed, highly decentralized, and have a physical plant consisting of little more than special collections and study areas." Funny how administrators who would never dream of doing our front line work with students are the first ones who want to outsource our librarians and library resources.
  • Stephen Abrams points to an article in the journal New Review of Academic Librarianship. I have to check to see if we carry the journal, then see if I get around to read it. For now, I am using this note to remind myself. Apparently the issue Abrams mentions deals with the ever present topic of the future of the academic library. 
  • And speaking of the short-sighted who want to close libraries, there are these folks in Omaha. Found via LISNews, where they have some comments.
  • And in the quest to make unlibraries (to borrow Effing Librarian's term), the Annoyed Librarian tells us that "Something's Gotta Give." AL also tells us that "the future is now" in the context of school libraries getting rid of book collections for e-books or other online access rental.
  • Jessamyn West has some thoughts on the Cushing Academy (aka as the school library that got rid of its book collection). A lot of comments over there. Another response on the topic at PhiloBiblos blog.

There are other things out there in the librarian sector of the blogosphere, but I can only take so much at one time. I may keep adding more as I get back in the mood.

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November 2009
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