I am a Librarian, and i love my job. Unfortunately i do not like libraries anymore. Why? They have fallen into the trap of mistaking the popularity of ebooks for the fall of print books. I work for a government department and we have made the move to a nearly full digital library. This means we have very few books in the library (only about 5,000) and most of them are Legal textbooks. We do not have a single Fiction book! They decided that in order to stay ‘professional’ they had to take out the ‘fun’ aspect. They mistook professional for meaning technology. The number of people who come in and are disappointed to know that they can not just browse the shelves are about 3 in a day. Considering we only get about 10 people a day into the library and 80% of those just to read the newspapers this i feel is proof that this new technology based service is not working. We are not aloud to put up displays, all marketing is for sessions on how to ask us to do their research, not how to research. I even suggested getting some chess boards in to lure people in over lunch time. It was refused on the basis that this would create the wrong feel to the library…frankly if a client is in the library, no matter what the purpose they have learnt something. If they come in to play chess they are likely to come in for other reasons later. Three quarters of the staff dont know there is a library despite the fact they have to walk past it to leave the building!
So sure, eBooks are the future and in surveys most clients ask for more of them. What they dont say is, less books. One does not necessarily mean the other. A great Book week display is my dream, Seeing someone excited about the new books display all those new covers to touch and feel. Its hard to enjoy a picture book on a Kindle folks! I dont know about you but i buy books on the kindle that im not sure about spending more than $5 on. If i like it i go and buy a physical copy to have on my shelf and read again. I used to work at a University and often students would take up two or three desks with all their books spreadout and open to different pages, you just cant do that on a computer monitor.
In my opinion, yes libraries need to move with the times, but not at the expense of what they essentially are, learning spaces full of knowledge and safe places to hang out. You can even eat in them now!
We need to learn the balance before we end out with a library that looks like this…
So whats your favourite thing about your local library?