Whenever I mention that I’m studying to become a librarian, I receive two different responses. The first is the respected response, in which the respondent is impressed and then proceed to talk or ask about the e-book format versus the traditional format. Those respondents are fun to talk to since they already have an interest in the outcome.
The second is the kind of response that I despise. “Why do you want to be a librarian? Who uses those anymore?” Clearly not you respondent! That’s the snarky response that I have in my head, though I never say outloud. With those types of responses, I usually pause, attempt to take a calming breath, and then proceed to explain why I think libraries are still relevant and will continue to be for a long time.
I’ve always considered a library to be more than just a building where we house books. Libraries were a place where I found information or where I could find solace in the stacks. Even when I was a little girl, it was more than just books since I could check out media materials. (The audio adventures with a read-a-long book).
I think we need to move aside the idea that we have to have an image for what a library should be and just make a library for what the patrons need. I’m a little inspired by Joshua Prince-Ramos, the Principal architect for the Seattle Central Library. When he and his company worked with the Seattle Public Library in designing the new central library building, Joshua and his team explored what were the most important issues that faced the library and how those issues might evolve over time. . What he discovered was different than what was traditional considered for libraries. The library staff perceived that the library should focus primarily on books. Yet, Joshua and his team discovered that the library actually engaged in more social events and programs than they did with books and media. By pointing out this difference, the library building began to mutate into a building that would best serve both.
The building is revolutionary in that it blew away past expectations for what a library should be. And having been a loyal patron to this library until I moved down to San Diego, it inspired me to seek out the library field a few years later after my move down south. While the library is a thing of beauty it was built to fit a specific purpose that still continues today: providing patrons with a place where they can seek information and social outlets to discuss their reactions to their research.
So what I’m trying to say is it’s hard to fight an idea. And with budgets slashed and librarians constantly questioned on their validity, it will continue to be a struggle for all involved. If you believe in something though, it will shine through and people will be attracted to that idea. I don’t think the word library will never be removed or mutated from what it is now. I don’t see information center being a substitute word. E-books are not going to change the world overnight. They haven’t so far and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. The word library invokes knowledge. Why change something that has so much power in it’s meaning?
Joshua Prince-Ramus - TED Talk on SPL Location