Friday, August 5, 2011

Are you sick of these questions? I am sick of these questions. A post in which I snap, finally*

*and by snap, I mean gather the recent flurry of news articles and plop them down in one spot.

That title was an homage to a prof of mine who used to ask questions and then answer them all the time.

I am working on a longer post about the recent craziness at TPL. In the meantime, you are hereby cautioned that the below stories contain Much Angst And Wringing Of Hands. Don't say I didn't warn you.....
  • "Are public libraries an essential service? Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says ‘no’—but he’s wrong," from
    Serves up the somewhat unpalatable premise that "libraries are on the chopping block because they can’t keep up with the times, and because they’re duplicating services performed by community centres" (not bloody likely on both counts, at least in all major Canadian cities... It's more like lack of effective marketing and being stuck in the morass of municipal bureaucracy!) and the more thoughtful realisation that "Libraries should be local hubs, not hubcaps latched onto larger, more central facilities." The further observation that "And while technology has changed the way we consume information services, it’s unlikely that an increase in Kobo sales and Wikipedia searches is going to stop an adult ESL student from taking out the required books to pass his or her TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), or a retiree from picking up the next Nora Roberts installment" warms me more - yes, exactly: technology has changed how we consume information services, but not the fact that we continue to consume them. And just because we consume, that doesn't mean we are thinking critically about what we're consuming! In this and other oft-ignored areas of service is the library a crucial link!
  • "Are Public Libraries Obsolete?: The Shelf Life of a "Dream Vision," from blogcritics
    "Whether libraries should continue to exist has almost nothing to do with what format the information comes in. It has everything to do with free public access to well-curated, well-organised, unbiased information; it has everything to do with libraries as part of the local community; it has everything to do with libraries as a source of entertainment that doesn't presume everyone's lives are an endless race to acquire wealth and possessions." This article also interestingly touches on implications of library closures on publisher and author revenue, and the development of public libraries in South Korea.
  • "Rex Murphy: E-readers turn every man into his own librarian," from the National Post.
    Oh yes, Rex. You had me at the sexist title. Seriously, though, although I often disagree with Rex, I usually expect a more thoughtful or well-researched opinion! I repeat, libraries are not a format, they are a service. We're not just about books. That was never the bloody point. And "portability and accessibility," really? Not universally so. But the fact that Rex has a fundamentally wrong definition of the word library means I really don't feel like expending any more energy on deconstructing his argument. Go back and read a freaking dictionary on that e-reader, then we'll talk. How about you start here - scroll down to Modern public libraries?
  • "Use of Public Libraries In Hard Economic Times," from the Nova Scotia Provincial Library
    Some nice real data here, and anecdotal stuff, too, such as "Public libraries provide free access to all types of materials - books, music, dvds, audio books, newspapers, magazines, downloadable audio books; they provide communities with public space, promoting mutual support and social inclusion. Hard economic times can be isolating, and public libraries bring people together in an inclusive, supportive environment. Public libraries are the original family friendly environment. Public libraries offer strong support for early literacy, as well as free children's programs such as story-times, craft programs, magic shows, film programs, and live performances."
  • "Why We Need Free Public Libraries More Than Ever," from The Atlantic
    A response to a recent article which proposed public library user fees (another rebuttal here). "The impact of the "nominal" user fee would unquestionably be a reduction in the library's use. This is very evident in France, where some local libraries charge small user fees in addition to receiving public support. [...] Libraries stopped thinking like it was 1900 many years ago, and are now providing users with access to online digital resources (and the really valuable ones are not free) e-books and 24/7 online access to library services. And national surveys show that the public considers public libraries the most effectively run of all municipal services."
  • "Public libraries are particularly essential in recessions," from The Providence Journal
    "Contrary to the popular myth that public libraries serve primarily the recreational needs of their communities, the overwhelming majority (over 70%) of visits to public libraries are for non-recreational purposes, [including] personal or family-related needs, such as help with health and wellness issues, personal finance, how to make or fix something, or to keep current with news or find jobs., [obtain access to] jobs databases, civil-service-exam materials, software to help create résumés, and other employment-related information, [...] conduct research [about small business-related] legal, financial and operational concerns, [...] educational needs [not just students but teachers and] adults continuing their education."
  • In the most unexpected article appearing in my news feed this week, "Oakland Library Stays Open Late to Fight Weekend Homicides," from The Bay Citizen (San Francisco)
    " part of the city's campaign to provide youth with safe alternative places to spend their weekend nights."
  • A bit more detail about the animosity between LSSI and library unions: "Outsourcing the local library can lead to a loud backlash," from Stateline
    "Many in the profession were rankled by a quote in a 2010 newspaper article from LSSI co-founder Frank Pezzanite: “A lot of libraries are atrocious. Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.” LSSI has a track record of re-hiring staff from the libraries that it takes over, and claims to offer industry-competitive wages. But union protections and defined-benefit pension plans usually disappear, with a company-matched 401(k) plan in its place."
  • Libraries going the way of the video stores? Not likely, if the ideas in "If You Can’t Reach Everyone Aim For The Passionate Users" go viral in the library world (they already have in many libraries)... from ACRL's blog
    "I’ve been emphasizing the importance of relationship building to capitalize on an experience we can provide that our community members cannot get with those nameless-faceless-corporate Internet providers of information. [...] Another potential lesson is to concentrate our efforts on the segment of the population that has the capacity to become the passionate users. The video store owners are conceding the bulk of the community to Netflix. They changed their strategy to focus on the passionate users who need more than convenience – those who want the conversation."
  • And a late-breaking addition: "Downey City Library: more important now than ever before," from The Downey Patriot.
    "We want to help people develop life-long reading habits and help others develop basic literacy skills, but we’re not just a source for books. We meet many of the day-to-day needs of Downey residents, from helping people find consumer information for major purchases to offering bus route information, DMV handbooks, and voter registration forms. People should view the library as a one-stop-shop for different services. [...] The Downey City Library shoulders a great deal of responsibility as one of the only institutions in the city offering literary events, reading programs, cultural events, and children’s programs. Now with the closing of Borders, the Friends of the Downey City Library Bookstore, located inside the library, will be the city’s only remaining bookstore. As a cultural hub, libraries need to be able to shift to meet cultural changes and the Downey City Library is ever-evolving. Read more: The Downey Patriot - Downey City Library more important now than ever before"

I feel better..... do you?

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