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EvolutionPosted Tuesday, May 8, 2012, at 4:17 PM
Librarians are a surprisingly spirited group. Far from the quiet peaceful world of books that most people imagine, librarians deal with nonstop market changes and a constant barrage of technical innovation. We try to stay ahead of the learning curve. In this day and age, any librarian you meet is as likely to deal with social media, apps, QR codes or e-readers, as he/she is to deal with bound paper books.
Like the human beings which created them, libraries are always evolving. They change and adapt to stave off extinction. I know that sometimes people think back to the "good old days" when the library was a silent as a tomb and great tomes of profound literature took up the majority of the space on the shelves. Guess what? That place only exists in memory. Libraries have never been stagnant.
The written language of human beings began with people carving into rock. Then there were scrolls and sheets of writing before the bound book made its appearance. Did you know that when illustrations were introduced in children's books, they were considered by some to be the devil's work? How awful to distract the children from their learning with some lovely pictures! Did you know that romance novels and tabloid stories have been the most popular form of reading material since the 1800s? People of yesteryear weren't much better about reading "worthwhile" literature than we are. And don't even get me started about the uproar that ensued when libraries began adding vinyl records to their collections! And now there are ereaders! What is the world coming to?
It really is too bad that more people don't read "the classics", but my point is that libraries are reflections of the people who use them. Currently libraries are adding more digital resources while still holding on to the core of our traditional resources. It's like we are in the middle of a long curve on a highway; we're going to change directions, but it will be accomplished by degrees.
We are changing because library users are changing. The way that people access information is changing. I know that this is going to sound heretical, but libraries have never really been about the books. Books are just the vehicle used to share information with the masses.
We ARE about the sharing of information. We are about free speech. We are about intellectual freedom and the open access to information for all, regardless of social or economic class, race, or gender. There was a time when our focus was finding information for our patrons. While we still do some of that, more and more our job is becoming one of helping people sort through the information overload that exists on the internet. In the face of this monumental change libraries are adapting to the digital environment.
Digital collections are only another phase in the evolution of libraries. Libraries are learning to address the needs of an increasingly online user. Services will focus more on managing information resources and applications of information technology, not on simple access. Digital information access allows us to be more effective. Evolve, change, adapt. Survive.
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We are your local librarians: keepers of the books, defenders of liberty, and superheroes in disguise. We DON'T read all day and we rarely stamp books. We catalog, process, publicize, market, investigate, experiment, deliver, promote, teach, and encourage. We come from a variety of backgrounds, enjoy our daily interactions with the public, and we are here to serve you.
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