Monday, May 16, 2011

Cat Among the Pigeons

put/set the cat among the pigeons (British & Australian) to do or say something that causes trouble and makes a lot of people angry or worried -TheFreeDictionary

It's been a lively Monday morning on Twitter, due in large part to the discussion of Seth Godin's posting, The future of the library.

Although Godin specifically mentions public libraries, this conversation is much larger, encompassing the entire profession of librarianship.

Without rehashing the entire piece - which should be read and savored in the original - I might summarize the message as "evolution or extinction." Perhaps Mr. Godin wouldn't state it quite as starkly, but this is the choice which I strongly believe librarians must make: change to fit the needs of the populations we serve, or find ourselves made irrelevant or redundant.

There has always been a slight but discernible rift between "book" people and "information/research" people. Most librarians fill both roles, but those who see themselves as more literature-oriented can become quite heated when they feel their role as guide, consultant, expert is threatened. And yet...a good English teacher can perform the same service for students, and online sources which recommend titles by genre, author, etc. are available for readers of all ages.

Some argue that community members come to the library to use topic-specific databases. In my experience, even students only resort to databases in a school setting. Most of the public find their needs served as well by a Google search. For those who do require more scholarly resources, in most areas, anyone with a library card can access their public library's databases online. Need to ask a reference question? Many libraries already offer online options for that, as well.

In September, there will be an exciting conference, Reimagine Ed, which seeks to address the design of K-12 libraries. The larger issue will be, of course, the function of these libraries. I've been thinking a lot about this, trying to envision a school that IS a library, a library that visually and philosophically encompasses an entire school. In this facility, all teachers and administrators would be librarians, and librarians would expand their roles as teachers and leaders. Such a future would necessarily require real changes in both teacher and librarian training programs.

Godin ends by saying,
"We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime."

Change is not only an option, change is an imperative. Don't just get your feathers ruffled: inquire, assess, learn, adapt. Evolve.

"DSCN1971" by ruurdz

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