Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Unfortunately "netflix will not solve the problem of people who do not have a home"

NetFlix by alforque, on Flickr

This week in class Dr. Lankes came out with this true but slightly baffling statement.  (Netflix, for those of you readers from the UK is like LoveFilm.)  This statement tackles the issue of how libraries will deal with online providers of books, films and information in general and was brought up in a discussion of the purpose of different types of libraries.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  alforque 

I would like to bring in a concept that I gleaned from thewikiman which involves a comparison of the old librarians and the new (i.e. us).  Before the internet and the advent of eresources and databases and all these new fangled exciting things, librarians were the keepers of the information and allowed access to those using the library.  Now, people can access that information themselves on the internet* (be it reliable or otherwise) and now librarians are required to evaluate the information and allow access to what they have vetted in the form of databases etc. to which they subscribe.  As Ned points out, people and reliable information may always be separated by librarians but we have transformed from being the 'gatekeepers' to being the regulators of the flow of information to the people.

Aida refugee camp by numerosept, on Flickr
I wasn't quite sure what sort of gate there was between people
and information so one with a big key seemed apt
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  numerosept 

It is becoming more generally acknowledged that librarians will become more and more indispensable in this digital age due to information overload and saturation.  It can be difficult to sift through information on the internet and find not only what is relevant but what is reliably sourced.  This is where librarians as a guiding force come in.  So, even if people have the internet in their homes and have the ability to research for themselves, librarians will always be necessary for guidance.

But, I hear you cry, what about the people without access to the internet?  Libraries are a wonderful resource for the community not only because they offer facilities such as the internet, online resources, newspapers, books, films, maps, events but also because they provide a 'safe haven' as I discussed last week.  When I worked in Lanark Public Library back in Scotland, by the far the majority of people who came through the door wanted to use the internet.  This could be because they did not have the internet at home, wanted somewhere quiet to study, needed to work on a project away from work so that it was not associated with them or for any number of other reasons.  The library provides the service indiscriminately and unquestioningly.

Computers by Valley Library (Oregon State University), on Flickr
A typical set up in many libraries today
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Valley Library (Oregon State University) 

Another point that was raised in one of my classes this week was the companionship desired by members of the public from the library staff.  I sometimes felt like I was working in a tourist information more than a library due to some of our requests.  Perhaps this more encompassing role is the way libraries are going to go since they quickly and easily become the heart of a community and offer all of the typical and expected services as well as provide the more vulnerable of society a place where they can feel at home.

companionship by welshwitch36, on Flickr
Companionship (and baking!)
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  welshwitch36 

Libraries are far from just being buildings full of books and what I have put forth in this post are but a few of the functions of a library.  So, in answer to all those who think that libraries are dead, I challenge you to get all of the above from the internet alone.

*massive over-simplification I know, I will get to this in a bit

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