In The Library With A Lead Pipe or What A Library Should *Be*

Besides having one of the best blog titles EVAR, In the Library with a Lead Pipe also has some of the most thought-provoking, long-form blog posts out there. In the post made on Wednesday the 20th, What Are Libraries For?, guest author Hugh McGuire says:

I’d like to propose a loose definition of what libraries are for, which comes out of something of a trope: that the central problem for big institutions when the environment around them is changing (as it is for libraries with the arrival of ebooks) is that they falsely assume that how they do things defines why they exist. In fact, the inverse relationship should dominate what they do: why they exist should define how they do things. Put another way, institutions must understand what they are for in order to properly understand how they should be, especially when the foundations upon which they were built are changing.

The rest of the post discusses the eventual overtaking of adult casual reading by ebooks and the difficulties libraries, at least those that define themselves as “the place to get books” will face when that happens. This made me look over at my wall where I’ve posted a large-print version of my library’s mission statement. It is as follows:

The mission of the Missouri River Regional Library is to make available to the residents of Cole and Osage Counties a diverse collection of human wisdom, experience, and ideas. The library makes accessible and promotes the use of informative and creative resources and cultural programs by which people of all ages, abilities, and circumstances can pursue their educational, professional and recreational interests.

(the red color is my addition; I wanted to highlight the verbs – the stuff I need to remember when I’m posting new information on the blog and other social sites)
I’d like to point out that this mission statement never uses the words book or magazine. The point of my library is to provide information in whatever format or style happens to be available. If ebooks are the dominant form, we’ll provide access to ebooks – however we can do it. If holographic lectures overtake journal articles as a way to provide information to our patrons, we’ll make it happen. The message that libraries will be irrelevant when print becomes a less dominant format is just wrong. Libraries will adjust, adapt and come out swinging – mostly because the people that make up libraries (the librarians, staff and those dedicated patrons who support us) will continue to provide access to information. Period.

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