02 June, 2007

In which I reply to Scott Adams

"Recently a friend joked about going to the library to help with his son’s school project. He said it felt like going back in time, to pre-Internet days. I wonder if libraries have an expiration date on them. I’m guessing yes."

Said Adams in part of a post he wrote a couple of days ago. I as is my want replied as such...

now you've put the librarians off side.
boo hiss booo hiss

Oh yeah my my
the library ain't gunna die
yeah yeah my my.

I'm wondering if the library will die (given my vocation I'm hoping not).
But the reason I think not is to do with your mistaken idea of what a library is.
You see a library is not a building for books, it is a place for retrieving information, most people think books because that is how the information has been stored for so long, but we (librarians - or at least the good ones) are early adopters of technology. So libraries have gone from tablets to scrolls then books. We've used microfilm and microfiche, we subscribe to the online databases you can't afford. We have our content online so you can access it from home. A lot of libraries will let you search their catalogue online and then mail you the book you want or email you the information you need.
We have audiobooks in mp3 for you to download, we have books in electronic format for you to read online or on your PDA/phone/camera/internet fridge...

But the real reason the library won't die is that it is a place to store librarians and Librarians (as someone has already commented) are the people who can track down the bit of information you need in amongst the mess of a mass of meaningless crap. Sure, computers can make some of this easier for you to do yourself, but it can make some things harder by hiding the facts you need in the sheer volume of content, and there is no computer yet (or looking like there will be any time soon) which can translate your query from induvidual into a correctly truncated search.

Plus, information needs aside, despite all predictions to the contrary people still like reading real books and the world has more than enough people who don't want to (or can't) buy all the books they want.

Then, there is the social side...
Storytime for preschoolers,
Old men playing chess or reading the newspapers (paper ones or online),
Literacy programs.
Collections of CDs, DVDs, Graphic novels that your mum won't let you buy because of the Japanese proclivity for schoolgirls knickers.
Access to computers for those who don't want/can't afford their own. This is a vital service now as so much of what people need is online, job applications, tax forms, government information all no longer a pamphlet but you need to ensure that there is equity of access to the information.

blah blah my my
this librarian ain't gunna die
I'm gunna burn out
not fade away
librarians way hey

(it will be interesting to hear what he says when he speaks at the Special Libraries Association's annual conference in Denver next week)


CW said...

Great reply, John! I can't spot a reply from Scott in response to you, though...

Mark said...

Very good points here. I read the Dilbert Blog regularly, and I wonder how long it's been since Mr. Adams stepped inside a public library.

They're amazing vessels of knowledge and ways to gather it.

Ross McPhee said...

I hope not.

Woeful said...

I'm wondering what library Scott's friend visited that reminded him of a pre-Internet time warp?