Daily Thoughts 150: Storm Damage

Yesterday, the storm hit Lacey and Thurston county hard. Trees toppled, houses, cars, and power lines all suffered. With usual commute routes closed this morning was an exercise in patience. I ended up making two trips into town. First, to get my sick kid checked out (he’s fine). Second, to actually go to work. Both took far longer than normal with slow traffic and some alternate routes since the roads I usually take had been closed.

The Adaptable Librarian

Changes in the information and publishing ecosystem require that librarians adapt. These changes raise the question, what is a librarian?

“What is a Librarian?”

A search for a definition offers such gems as, “a person, typically with a degree in library science, who administers or assists in a library.” Merriam-Webster says, “a specialist in the care or management of a library.” Following those definitions, it begs the question of how we define a library. Again, Merriam-Webster says a library is “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale.” Google’s info card says much the same thing, “a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or refer to.” Wikipedia echoes these definitions with additions, such as information literacy and technology instruction.

People?

For the most part, these definitions are lacking key elements of a librarian or library. People, for instance. Other than references to “use” and the section “for people to read, borrow, or refer to,” the definitions lack the human element. Who does the library serve? Why does it exist? Are librarians only caretakers, or do they do more? Many librarians stress helping people of all ages, backgrounds, economic positions, political affiliation, or whatever group you want to create. Everyone. Librarians are fierce defenders of our freedoms, privacy, and access. Of course, roles vary, but few librarians concern themselves solely with collections of stuff. Most are much more concerned with people.

Stormy Days

What does this have to do with the storm? Similar storms regularly batter libraries today. Communities don’t see the value of their library and allow it to close. Shifts from ownership to licensing content threaten the foundations on which libraries stand. Lack of progress from vendors of library technology deal additional blows to libraries remaining relevant. Likewise, librarians wearing blinders doesn’t help. Such as cataloging websites instead of developing search engines.