Friday, 16 March 2012

Libraries of the Future...but what about now?

It's Spring Break (how incredibly American) and I'm in Michigan but haven't had a whole week removed from the library world.  On Monday we had lunch with David Votta, one of the reference librarians from CADL (Capital Area District Library), who is also heavily involved in the local history department of the library system.  He and his boss, head of reference, had some very interesting viewpoints on the profession which, on the face of it, could be interpreted as negative, but have actually caused me to look more favourably on my future in the profession.

CADL in Lansing, MI
At library school it can, at times, feel that we are focusing too much on what libraries will be like way in the future.  I know that this is an integral part of our education and without this the profession cannot look forward but we must also be aware of how to deal with the libraries of today and place ourselves in positions of influence.  Having plans for the future of librarianship is all well and good but if we cannot verbalise our views and communicate them to the current librarians then we will never get anywhere.  As a new graduate, why should existing libraries and boards of trustees listen to us?  We need to know how to work the system now.

CADL local history room done out to look old (ring a bell, Americans?)

David and Jim have a realistic approach to their library system and know what they can and what they cannot achieve.  Some of my fellow students may well read that as defeatist but, really, if I walk into a public library in Scotland and suggest that we become the 'third space' I will get laughed out the door.  The ideas and discussions we have in the comfort of library school are great but we need to wake up and realise that implementation is key and that is what I feel I get when I visit actual libraries, talk to actual librarians dealing with actual patrons on the ground.  In reality, I will probably not be working in a particularly forward thinking (and funded) library such as Fayetteville Free and neither will a lot of my fellow students so should our degrees not be helping us today, as well as twenty years down the line?

I thought that this was a fantastic idea for recycling bags and making sure that you have bags in which to carry your library books home (the security guard thought I was INSANE for taking this I talked loudly in a Scottish accent and pretended to be a tourist)
I don't want to sound down on library school - it has thus far been invaluable in providing me with a grounding in networking and teaching me many important personal and professional skills.  My choice of class has been pretty good in as far as my experience of archives and special collections are concerned but some of the introductory classes could deal with more tangible issues.  David and Jim showed that having some business nouse, common sense, love of the job, desire to impart knowledge and most of all a willingness to serve the people will get us through - I don't think I would mind having my library full of people like that.

Spring Break...Hershey...Turkey Hill...Shamrock Shake...March Madness
What will the UK think of me when I return?!

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