I really really don’t like it, no I’m doing to have to say I hate it when people within the library industry prophesise about the death of libraries. Anyone who went to the City of Sydney Library Let’s Talk event last month would have heard me say how much I hate it.
Prophesisng the death of an industry often serves to evoke the exact opposite response than the one required in times of change and uncertainty. Rather than creating an enthusiastic environment of people flexible and eager for change and challenges it has the potential to create an environment of negativity, inactivity and even bitterness. So in short a particularly unhelpful environment.
Today I read an article in the American Law Library Journal by James Milles. The article is entitled, Legal Education in Crisis, and Why Law Libraries Are Doomed. Okay so you may be thinking that I set myself up to be angry (and you may be right) but there was one thing in the article that really struck a cord with me.
“I don’t know a single law school that doesn’t love its librarians. But I also don’t know a single law school that I would rely on to give up other things to protect its autonomous law library when the pressures for centralization grow strong enough. Would your law school turn over Admissions or Development to the central administration to keep the law library under law school control? Or would your faculty give up sabbaticals, take on increased teaching loads, or forgo faculty hiring, to save the library? Or maybe they want to keep the law library so they can raid its budget and space for other needs?”
Now the article focuses on law school libraries and I’m sorry if any law school librarians take offence – its unintended. The paragraph raises a really challenging idea for all libraries and that is:
Just because they love you doesn’t mean that they are going to save you.
Now I know this is a tough thing for me to say but I know (and I know you know) that in todays world nothing is really safe from the budget. The library isn’t the same sacred place of knowledge and learning it once was. Why? It is no longer the sole source of knowledge and learning. Technology has disrupted (permanently) the library’s status on the untouchable ‘shhh’ mountain. What we need to do as an industry of innovative and skilled professionals is to ensure the industry is valuable. Not just as an old book on a shelf thats always been there for as long as we can remember but as a core ingredient in the future of the community, business or educational institution.
It’s a bright future not a dark one but as an industry we have challenges to face that we haven’t had to face before. We must…boldly go where no Librarian has gone before.
How do we do that? I will leave that for tomorrow’s post #BlogJune