Monday, May 16, 2011

Seth Godin Needs To Visit a Library

Now I am married to a school librarian so a) I have a bias toward them and b) I have a bit of an idea of how they think and how libraries operate. OK not all libraries or all librarians but at least one really good one. So I had to read this post by Seth Godin (The future of the library)

In that post he describes a future librarian that sounds a lot like my wife and a library that sounds a lot like the library she is always working towards. But what Seth misses is the reason librarians still need to fight for sharing and borrowing on eBook readers. In a word – access.

It’s all nice and fuzzy to say you can get everything you need on the Internet if you have a nice set of Internet connected devices and good access to the Internet everywhere you go. And Seth probably has that. Many of the patrons of most libraries, especially the libraries that serve poor and rural areas do not have those things. For these patrons even inexpensive books are outside their price range and 24/7 Internet access is still the realm of science fiction. For these readers the loan of an eBook reader is a door into future possibilities. If librarians do not fight to get them access to this technology and to the information on them they may never get to see it.

Also librarians have for the most part redefined themselves away from guardians of books to sharers of information. (well the good ones anyway)They have embraced media of all types from eBook readers to videos (online and on hard media), online databases to Internet searches. They are all about helping people find information and entertainment (yes people do read for entertainment). There are lots of computers in most libraries. It’s still hard to take those computers home though and if someone doesn’t have a computer at home (or Internet) than eBook readers are yet one more tool in the librarian’s toolbox.

Seth says:

Librarians that are arguing and lobbying for clever ebook lending solutions are completely missing the point. They are defending library as warehouse as opposed to fighting for the future, which is librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario.

Librarians are not missing the point. Seth is missing the point. Librarians do see themselves as “producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario” and have for years. Seth misses the point that librarians are about access and sharing by almost any means or media possible. They are not defending the library as warehouse but the library as a source for information sharing. And that is something  you would think Seth would be onboard with.

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