Watch out!! Something on the Internet is WRONG!

So, I’m reading the Seattle Times Op-Ed on libraries (not because I live in, or even have ever been to, Seattle, but because I have a Google Alert set up for libraries that I actually do peruse occasionally) and steam started coming out of my ears. The idea behind the op-ed is that libraries are relics and that library spaces and staff need to be redesigned to become “Library 2.0” (the gentleman doing the writing doesn’t realize that Library 2.0 has been done? Pick another name, sir…). There were a couple of quite simply *wrong* statements that he makes (without any sources cited, of course) that I shall refute (with sources! and anecedata!!) that I wanted to bring to your attention.

First – “The entirety of human knowledge is never more than a few clicks or taps away.” (top of the page at In 2007, it was estimated that 94% of the web can’t be accessed from search engines because it’s behind a paywall or otherwise hidden from view. These are the kinds of resources that individual people find hard to pay for – stuff like hundreds of dollars a year for a subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary or thousands of dollars a year for access to journal and magazine article databases. The sort of things that libraries can get by pooling everyone’s tax dollars and buying them for everyone to access.

Second: “Nowadays, people come to the library to gather with friends and neighbors, to study in a peaceful environment, to watch DVDs and flip through magazines or to browse the Internet for free. As any librarian will tell you, they rarely come to read books.” – all completely true, until that last statement. Unless he means it *literally* – as in nobody comes to sit down in the library chairs and read, though the next sentence (where he discusses removing “dusty” shelves and “crusty” books) seems to argue against that interpretation. In Library Journal earlier this year, there was a story entitled “Book Buying Survey 2012: Book Circ Takes A Hit” which does say that after a decade of soaring book circulation statistics, they’ve suddenly gone flat. If you read all the way through the article, though, the author admits that if you add in circulation of ebooks, the picture looks much rosier and circulation is still up.  I know that in my occasional shifts on the circulation desk, I see MANY books being taken out of the library and MANY books being returned – there has been no dip in circulation at my particular library!

Third: “Specifically, we need to create a librarian portal, where each librarian is tagged with his or her specialty (history, sports, cooking). Whenever any patron asks a question in-person, over the phone or online, the librarian with the most expertise is automatically alerted.” Uh. This actually might be a decent idea for larger public libraries or consortia. I’ll grant him this one.

He ends by saying he’s the 22 year old son of a librarian and he’s a ” a Kindle-reading, Wikipedia-surfing, smartphone-tapping member of my generation.” and that he knows – as we all should – that the library is dying. I disagree. I think the library is changing, but not dying. People still read and they still want to use the library’s resources. Some of those resources are different than the ones his father likely presided over, but they are still valuable and still used.

I’m a 39 year old Kindle-reading, Wikipedia-surfing, smartphone-tapping member of my generation too. And some of the apps I have on that smartphone direct me to my local library. That’s the future of libraries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Relation Browser
0 Recommended Articles:
0 Recommended Articles: