Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hey, We're Still Alive Over Here!

It's been a while since I've posted here. I've been busy with two library jobs, trying to get the next issue of the zine ready, and preparing for the World Fantasy Convention that this hasn't been my top priority. There's been a lot of stuff going on that I have thoughts on. Of course, at this point the time has passed for me to make relevant posts about it (the whole librarian as a calling thing is dead in the water now...), but today I read something from one of my favorite blogs, The Annoyed Librarian, that has prompted me to write.

Now, the AL (as she calls herself) tends to annoy/anger me as I read her posts, but I think I need that. Just like how Library Revolution makes me mad some times, the AL writes some things that get my hackles up. She calls things as they are. And I think librarians need someone to stand up and call their bullshit "bullshit" now and again. (I don't believe she'd curse, that's my own failing)

From today (she's discussing outsourcing library services):
This debate is similar to all the guff about how we have to bend over and grab our ankles to make libraries "relevant" to people. Libraries are relevant or they're not. The people care, or they don't. If people don't want what libraries provide, then libraries will go away, but that's more of a problem for the librarians than it is for the people. What if all "information" was available for free online, search engines had perfected search, "information literacy" was universal, and computers and Internet access were available to all? If that happens, public libraries will probably be unnecessary for the most part. Is that a problem for the people, or for the librarians? Even now it's true for many people. Access to information is cheap. We talk about the "digital divide," but I wonder how many people on the other side of the digital divide can afford televisions and cable.
If librarians were interested only in user satisfaction, they wouldn't complain about library outsourcing in such a knee-jerk manner. Librarians are interested in librarians, except, of course, when they're not.
I mean, how great is that? But I want you to go back and think about this statement again:
Libraries are relevant or they're not.
Yes, there are things you can do to make the library more prominent in the community, there are things you can do to enhance the user experience (my library now has downloadable movies, sweet!), but there's little you can do to make the library more relevant.

There's only so much control you have over what someone else thinks is relevant. At one point in my life guitars and music shops were the only relevant thing. At another point it was skateboarding. I think most people who know me now would laugh a little to hear those two statements. More pertinent to this discussion, even though I work in a library now, and would feel comfortable to say that librarianship is a calling for me, from when I left high school to when I started my MLIS coursework (a span of 1989 - 2004) I entered a library fewer than ten times. The library was not relevant to me.

These days, I could not live without the library. If for nothing more than the fact that I no longer buy hundreds of books a year. And again, for that alone I love being part of a big consortium. There are few books that I am looking for that I cannot get through the consortium. I am not able to use much of the library's programming. This is equal parts my lack of time and the lack of convenience of getting to the library. But is the library relevant to me? As an employee, of course. As a patron...I don't know. If I wasn't in the library a few times a month (I'm part-time at the public gig) I don't know how much I'd use it. Certainly not the branch I work at; there are two closer to me.

I do think that libraries should do a better job of marketing their services to their community. And perhaps they need to hire someone to do that for them. I'm not convinced that librarians know what their community wants, or where their community goes/is, to be able to market properly. Will better marketing make libraries relevant? That's up to the patron. Not to us.


Brian Mandabach said...

My wife takes the kids to the library every week, and I come along at least once a month. Before that, it was once every couple of months.

The library is not just relevant, it's essential. Or not, right? Depending on who the "public" is.

Kitchen Sinks said...

Yeah..i go through this blog and it is a nice work showing to get more information and knowledge about the library.