When Librarians Go Bad . . .
I saw this poster in a library the other day and it made me queasy. I like books. I like libraries. I dislike zealots and this kind of garbage.
This poster is the kind of reactionary propaganda that does no one any good. The opening quote is below.
Libraries are icons of our cultural intellect, totems to the totality of knowledge. To claim, as some now do, that the Internet is making libraries obsolete is as silly as saying shoes have made feet unnecessary.
Wow. Icons and totality. He almost makes Internet zealots seem reasonable. To claim that there can ever be a “totality of knowledge” is egotistical and to claim the library somehow embodies “totality” is absurd. Libraries, by their very nature, have to exclude huge amounts of information and make editorial decisions regarding content inclusion. There’s plenty of good and plenty of bad in that.
To use the feet/shoes metaphor is equally misguided. Libraries and the internet aren’t comparable to feet and shoes. That would seem to indicate that a library is an organic component of a society, like feet are a part of the body and the Internet is an add-on whose main purpose is to protect, or possibly enhance, the library. Neither is the case.
Libraries are places we’ve put information. The Internet is a place we’ve put information. It’d be a more apt comparison to say information is food and libraries and the Internet are containers – let’s say bowls and plates. One is likely to be better than the other for certain foods but each has its own advantages. You should have access to all sorts of containers and you ought to choose them based on your needs.
I will say that the Internet is making the old idea of libraries obsolete. The Internet is forcing libraries to change and focus on what they offer that is beyond content repository. Libraries ought to be (and many are) incorporating the Internet and all it has to offer. Libraries are useful and good but not for the reasons outlined in this poster.
- Not Everything Is on the Internet. – You wouldn’t assume this anyway but lots of things don’t make it to the library because of limited space and money. This idea seems to be ignored. Other types of content simply can’t exist within a library. You need both- although in its current incarnation the Internet is far more likely to end up with a more expansive and deeper amount of content than the library.
- The Needle (Your Search) in the Haystack (the Web)– Building your own search skills is important. Don’t let librarians or anyone else think for you or control what you can access. Fear shouldn’t be used to motivate how and where you look for information. I’d expect better tactics from a librarian.
- Quality Control Doesn’t Exist That’s also a good thing about the Internet. Other people aren’t deciding what’s good for you. Granted, you need to learn to evaluate things for yourself but that’s a good thing. The comment about pornographers is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. I’ve seen articles about pedophiles in libraries molesting children. Would that be a reason to avoid them? After all, no one has ever been physically attacked on the Internet ever. Additionally, I know some libraries carry Playboy and other pornography. Should I be scared? That kind of stupid fear mongering sounds pretty desperate to me.
- What You Don’t Know Really Does Hurt You. – Don’t libraries continuously push online databases as a way for them to cut costs and allow greater access? This is a petty comment anyway and it ignores the vast amount of information that simply cannot fit within a library. I guess that info is ok to ignore because it hasn’t been sanctified by the Lord Librarian.
- States Can Now Buy One Book and Distribute to Every Library on the Web – Here the librarian proves he’s hip by using the ever popular “NOT!” l’m not ever sure how to respond to this other than with pity.
- Hey, Bud, What About E-Books? – And no one sees reading in general as a chore, right? Nothing like taking the opinion of some and making it fit all people. Who is the final arbiter of when this ceases to be a “chore?” How long is a library “generation?”
We should ignore new technologies because people aren’t used to them. That worked well with computers and the Internet. Why get involved with trends like that?
- Aren’t There Library-less Universities Now? If other people have failed then we, too, should give up. No one flew before the Wright Brothers so flight really should have been ignored rather than thought about in different ways because it’s impossible.
- But a Virtual State Library Would Work, Right? – Apparently digitization is necessary because you can’t buy digital books or take advantage of things like the Gutenberg Project. You certainly couldn’t pool state/national library resources and work on digitization in an organized way. Nope. It’s all or nothing. Besides, we’ve already proven reading digital books is a chore.
- The Internet: A Mile Wide, an inch (or Less) Deep – I find most libraries to be weak in lots of subject areas and, by their very nature, they are as limited in recent information as this claims the Internet is in terms of older information. If you want more, up-to-date information you need the Internet.
- The Internet Is Ubiquitous but Books Are Portable – I don’t know anyone who reads books in the snow. It sounds like a good way to mess up your book. The stupidity of this whole poster is that things are portrayed in black and white rather than degrees of grey.