"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Nov 2, 2009

Revisiting the centrality of the collection question

I was all set to write a post about why I hadn't been posting. I will admit to not feeling particularly reflective lately. Life (and final paper/project assignments!) seems to have come crashing down all at once, and my brain has mostly gone into "cope with the thing in front of you right now, and then move on" mode.

But I've found that often I'll get whacked over the head with a reflective moment even when I'm not especially inclined to have one -- last Friday being a case in point. I was part of a group giving a presentation in my Community Informatics seminar. The project was an educational technology policy proposal (before you ask, no, this doesn't strongly relate to the class...), and we made it relevant to our own interests by including a recommendation to adequately support school library media centers. Indeed, we argued that SLMCs should be the centerpiece of the four recommendations we proposed to improve information literacy education in the United States.

During the question and answer period, the outside person who'd been brought in to comment on our presentations asked us (and this is obviously a paraphrase): You say the school library media center is vital. But the SLMC is just a place. It's the librarian who has the training, who takes actions to support teachers, students, and administrators. Should it be the library or the librarian that is central to your policy?

...well, hmm, good point.

I wrote a little while ago that I think better services, and better marketing of ourselves as service providers, are vital to ensuring the library's continued relevance. This person's question has made me reconsider the way the whole question is framed. Are libraries important as places? Yes, I think so -- but only because of the people who gather there. And I include both patrons and staff in that. Staff are trained to assist patrons with problem-solving by finding and organizing information; and they help to enrich people's lives through provisions of services and programming. In addition, some patrons interact with each other and the staff in mutually beneficial ways, helping all parties to learn and grow.

I feel like there's more of a thought there but it needs some time to percolate through my brain before it emerges. (I am a processor -- I ingest information, and then it sits in my head for a while and stews, and a few hours/days/weeks/months later it comes back out as something (hopefully) new and interesting.)