I occasionally look back nostalgically on the days of my youth when I actually had to go to the library to seek information. I mourned the passing of the card catalogue for a little while. I freely admit to liking the smell and feel of old paper. I also enjoy the reverence of the library – a public place set aside to speak in hushed tones and decode number systems in search of information. That time has passed.
Many of us don’t have to go to the information anymore. We bring the information to ourselves and fine tune our needs even before we consider going to the library. My own trips to the library are now fewer and farther between.
For others the library still fills the gap between what one person can afford to “own” and what a community can afford to “own”. The valued and expensive commodity that public libraries provided was once print materials. Now the commodity is access to digital materials. Consequently, the library has shifted its role; libraries now serve as redefined centers for precious information. They serve as links to the resources of the internet, as much as they serve as repositories for print.
My friend who (until recently – three cheers for her new job as a library director) was a teen/youth librarian at a public library in Georgia spent vast amounts of time reaching out to her patrons by visiting schools, connecting to her patrons in the library, and launching intense summer reading programs. Unlike the old stereotype of the reserved, unsocial librarian behind a desk, my friend was and is an emissary to her community to ensure her patrons understanding of the continued relevance of public libraries and the value they provide for the general population.
That is a a shift that makes me smile with anticipation for the hope of better things in the future.