There's been a significant amount of controversy these days about the future of books and libraries. Seth Godin even wrote a post called the future of the library, which brought some heated reactions.
What was it about his post that brought such out such strong emotions? Well, on the surface, it seemed that he was saying that librarians should turn their backs on books and focus on internet resources instead. Being an author of many books-in-print himself, and having just released a new one, I really do not think that was his intention.
Mr. Godin suggested that librarians "train people to take intellectual initiative." From where I sit, this statement was not only a major compliment to librarians, but also very sound advice.
Librarians are trained to research and locate resources of all kinds and in all formats. At a time when there's an ever increasing amount of information available, they are really the best people to train others on how to sift and sort through all of it. When there's so much quantity, and not enough quality, it's easy for the average individual to get lost in such a sea of information.
Many librarians do share their widespread knowledge, but there's always room for improvement, isn't there? With so much information out there, they not only have to spend a significant amount of time researching resources, but they also have to share their vast knowledge with people of all ages. And let's face it: some of them are better at reaching out than others.
So, as a frequent library visitor (online and in person), I thought I'd share 12 questions that I would be asking myself right about now, if I was a librarian:
1. How can I best navigate the sea of information, without getting lost in the details?
2. What are my strengths, and where does my passion lie, when it comes to research?3. How can I best share my love of research, reading, and learning with others?
4. Am I bringing the best of myself to my colleagues and patrons?
5. Am I not only finding, but sharing, the very best resources?
6. Am I approachable? Do people (of all ages) actively seek out my help? If not, why not?
7. Do I wait for patrons to find me to ask a question, or do I keep an eye out for people who might need my help?
8. What kinds of programs, shows, workshops, book groups, blogs, or web sites will attract more patrons?
9. How can I help further the cause of literacy, and help people to discover reading materials which will really enable them to develop a love of reading?
10. How can I encourage people to use a wide variety of resources, rather than relying on any one type? How can I best communicate the availability of such resources?
11. How can I train individuals, or groups of people, how to effectively research a topic, both online and offline?12. Am I collaborating with colleagues, patrons, school librarians, and teachers, so that we can support and learn from each other?
It is my hope that librarians continue to research and share the very best resources of ALL kinds, whether they're available online or not. Children especially NEED books and other materials in print, and it would be a tragedy to turn our backs on resources that have served us so well. Books are not only timeless, but priceless as well. Let's give them the dignity they deserve!
I'd like to end with one of my favorite quotes, which you can also find in a previous post:
"When you reduce life to black and white, you never see rainbows." - Rachel Houston
I really don't see why there should be an "either/or" when it comes to the information age. We can choose to become lost in a sea of mediocre information, or we can choose to seek out and highlight the best of the best.
When Seth Godin says that librarians should "train people to take intellectual initiative," he's really not talking about black and white. He's talking about color. At least that's what I think. What about you?
By the way, do you want to know how Seth Godin really feels about books? Check out his latest post, Why write a book?