Tuesday 1 March 2016

Libraries - because books.

So, today the ALIA NGAC hosted its semi-regular twitter discussion, using the aptly-name hashtag #AusLibChat. I find that these online discussions are a great way of checking back in with the Australian library industry, and seeing what the major issues are.

One particular conversation thread caught my attention, was sparked by the question:
 The discussion moderator responded with:
And thus ensued the predictable, "Libraries aren't about books anymore - they're about technology, community, sharing, creating, etc..." discourse that we're all familiar with in this day and age.

It's something that I've seen happen more and more - a trend amongst librarians to actively distance themselves from the association with books and literature, and fight the familiar brand of the library as being a place for books and reading.

Now, of course, I should mention that there are many many librarians and information professionals in the industry who do not work with books. I myself do not work with books in my current employment, and it's been a valuable exercise in understanding and serving the information needs of a large organisation. It's certainly professional work, and a core part of the industry in this day and age.


I would argue that if your main reason for becoming a librarian is "because books", then it's still definitely possible to have an professional and enriching career as a librarian. There are still plenty of libraries out there where books and reader development is still their primary bread and butter. There is also sufficient evidence to indicate that many people are still reading regularly and widely, and that libraries play an essential role in facilitating this in the community.

And guess what? It's the librarians in this libraries that are connecting people with books and each other. They find the right book for the right person that will stimulate and engage them, and then develop community programs through which readers can share their experiences of reading with others. Yes, they also utilise skills with technology, because that's an integral part of society. But technology is a means to an end, and it doesn't matter whether it's an e-book, digital audio book, multimedia storytelling, or a good old fashioned dead tree paper book. Call it what you like, but it essentially boils down to the same thing.

Librarians do it damn well! We should own it and stand proud. Or not - be a different kind of librarian - but certainly don't deny the professional contribution that the "because books" librarians have to offer to the world.