In talking with a librarian the other day, she asked me a question. Are libraries still relevant today and if so, how do we make people see that? She said when talking to many people they say they have a computer and Internet at home and don’t need to go a library. Not only can they research information from the comfort of their home, they can also download books. This is all true.
But what people don’t realize is that librarians are still the first and best search engines. Sure, you can type in a question on Google or bing, or whatever your favorite search engine is, and you will get hits. Many of them reliable. But will you, or the average person, know it is reliable? Many times it’s difficult to authenticate a site. Librarians will know where to look and are happy to share that information with you. They also know where to look, and have access to, sites you may not be aware of. If you’re looking for historical, genealogical, or medical information, to name a few, you might want to consult with your librarian at some point. He or she can point you in the right direction.
And what about books? Sure, you download a ton of free books, or you can buy them online – no muss, no fuss. This is terribly convenient when the snow is swirling about or it’s a blistering 95+ degrees out, but truthfully, there are some things you may not want to own or pay for. And if you’re not in a tremendous have-to-have-it-in-my-hands-now hurry, you can get it through your public library, even if they don’t have it on their shelves. All public libraries in the U.S. are part of an interlibrary loan system. If one library doesn’t have a book (article / DVD) they will do their best to get it from another library. Some librarians are positively tenacious about tracking these items.
I certainly think libraries have changed over the years. As a kid, I remember visiting the children’s section of the local library and reading my way through the collection. Because of the size, I was forced to read biographies and histories I normally wouldn’t have. I believe they enriched my life tremendously, even though I didn’t know that at the time. But libraries were a place only for the real readers. Now, libraries provide programming and entertainment. The face of the education they provide has changed, but not its mission.
Search engine gurus might be able to make your inquiry pop up quickly, but a librarian can make it relevant to your needs.
Are libraries still relevant? The question floored me. I can’t imagine a world without libraries. How to make people see that they are relevant? I have no idea. Any suggestions welcome. What do you like or dislike about libraries?