Original post made
by Just build it, Stanford,
on Jun 25, 2013
Hey, this isn't totally news. It is an interesting question.
I will argue that technology is a tool, not the end goal of high quality information and education and casual answers and "knowledge."
The library world has been shy about promoting itself. It also doesn't go out of the way to point out the difference between circulation clerks (non-professional) and master's degree holding professional librarians. Too bad - leads to an unfortunate downgrade of status overall in our thinking of information professionals. (I daresay even professional journalists are included in this...with the emphasis on glamorizing celebrity tweeting idiots and bloggers nowadays and anyone proclaiming themselves an expert on something, which some accept without question of credentials. That doesn't mean libraries and librarians aren't worthwhile. They can be managed a million ways, the way YOU have seen it is a drop in the bucket, but yet a person may hold very favorable views (IF a librarian saved their neck) or think they are worthless, if they never venture into one or are unfamiliar with the diversity out there. I am a little defensive on this, but I do know something about this subject so I will throw out a few angles to it.
I have worked in the special library sector (meaning corporate America) - yes, as a librarian, and there was very little emphasis on monographs. No hushing whatsoever. A cool atmosphere with results. An emphasis on service and accurate results. Less space, perhaps, devoted to a physical collection of monographs, periodicals, specialized reference tools. Certain parts of corporate America and HQ of national assoiations, whatever, find this function useful to have in-house. There are resources that help competitively in our fast paced world. You don't know what you don't know until you've worked with an intelligent librarian/information specialist.
What IS important is that there be the function of public libraries around in our communities --and they do vary nowadays, it doesn't have to be old school -- it doesn't have to be a certain number of branches -- with some quite modern in style and attitude. I prefer the title "information centers." The word "library" has old school connotations that are unfortunate and don't reflect the better modern libraries.
This function in the public sector offers a range of unbiased (and some biased) information to the public for free. We can't all afford to subscribe to specialized databases. A lot of the public DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE MISSING when they avoid the services of professional librarians. Some people know this secret, like many a person starting up a business. Libraries and librarians can be worth their weight in gold.
Google isn't the end all and be all (though students are incorrectly assuming this nowadays, until their college professors set them straight about....using the college library, which IS necessary for scholarship, writing papers that will receive a good grade).
Young people are most at risk for misunderstanding the net - believing anything their favorite blogger posts, for example. While the numbers may be dwindling, there still are educated journalists and primary sources and secondary sources worth being aware of, and credible/vetted/peer-reviewed sources of information. All the same, young people can be lazy and just wish to Google topics in a general manner, overlook paid ranked search results that can create bias.
And yes, there still are the benefits of being able to search serendipitously in a physical library with a decent collection.
A professional librarian can offer professional guidance to those doing casual OR important research.
This was a no-brainer. A large number of people now go to libraries for the free Internet, not at all for books.
So why has so much excessive $$$ been spent on the already obsolete Mitchell Park Library ( over budget, over schedule, out of date)? What a waste!
It may be news to palo alto. People are all upset because the number of books in certain branches are being decreased. They have blinders on with regard to libraries.
That is why wee have 5 branches--- because we have had 5 branches for decades and we cannot have any changes in palo alto because things were so wonderful 10/20/30 years ago
The article posted in link was sickening to me. For one, libraries aren't about just finding a book for casual reading-SOME use it for research (remember using the microfiche machine??) and most young people (and old people too, for that matter) do not know how to access information for any sort of research, and MUCH of the information required to complete a work is behind a pay wall or in the "deep web"- areas that your typical Googler has no idea how to access nor is even aware of it's existence.
Say you want to pick a book off the shelf on topic of Bulimia- read it and place it back on the shelf. Private, no digital track that leads right back to YOU. Imagine the implications of only having the digital versions of everything you'd want to look up, read, whatever- no option of the physical book- no anonymity. How would you like to be placed on "The List" for wanting to check out Ernst Zundel's writings, or curious on how nuclear power works?
Digital media is a HORRIBLE way to go- absolutely horrible in so many ways..
Another reason to keep things on paper (from the article): "For libraries, supplying e-books can cost up to three times more than physical books. And they say if publishers continue to withhold or sell e-books at such high prices, they won't be able to continue their core mission of serving the public." Can you predict what is going to happen? As libraries go the "tech route" they will run out of funding, trying to keep up to date by purchasing all of these silly "ebooks"- thus creating their own demise.
Another disgusting trend I've noticed not only in libraries, but in booksellers stores as well is the inundation of shelves with "Self Help" books, Teen Romances, and Cooking books. Can someone tell me what's happening here? Where have all of the research books gone? American History, Classics, Non-fiction? Much of the very important works have been creatively removed from shelves: Solzhenitsyn & other authors for one, even on Amazon a paperback of his goes for over 200.USD. Why are these works so hard to come by? And WHY aren't books like these stocked in libraries across the country? I have a notion, but of course it would create a "politically correct (term coined by Leninists for those who toe the party line, by the way)" firestorm. keep libraries honest, shall we?
Keep the libraries open, and fill them with opportunities to access information not easily accessed and Google does NOT have "everything"- it only has what has been posted online, and even so, much of the good stuff is behind the pay walls I mentioned or in areas most people are unaware of their existence, nor know how to look for it.
Now- for some interesting Googling look into the "book burning" of all releases pre-1985 of children's books (some out of print)
"It's hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year  aimed at regulating hazards in children's products, the federal government has now advised that children's books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute. Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testingat prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse. " Web Link
It's reassuring to read that Texas is being suggested as an intellectual leader. (I'm trying really hard not to laugh.) All those numbers, too confusing - color code the walls.
Library usage has gone down? Wrong. the writer didn't check the facts.
The "Labrary" at Harvard sounds so dumbed down. Games, and learn to make things, right. Mostly money.
Actually it sounds like a fun place, like an amusement park. Just isn't a library.
A library is a collection of items that store knowledge, or a building or room which stores items that store knowledge.
How we use this collection of knowledge changes. Mitchell Park only needed a checkout/return desk for non digital materials, excellent wifi and computer facilities, and a community center.
At present, our new library is on hold!
As high tech librarian pointed out - the most important part of the library is the staff. For example, the librarian at Paly is truly a teacher in addition to a librarian and has improved the library in many ways since she came on board.
One of the reasons that I think it is wrong for us to have so many branches is that it is costly to staff all of them with real librarians. And since many of the advocates for the libraries are older citizen, there is a big emphasis on books.