Sunday, December 2, 2007

Week 6, Thing #15, Future of Libraries

These articles are interesting perspectives on the future of libraries. I like to read this kind of stuff because I think it is all too easy to get busy in our own spaces and not put up our heads and notice what is going on in the outside world. With the web, that world is getting really big and the danger of being left behind and considered irrelevant is very large. I may not use all the ideas that I read about, but keeping my own knowledge of what is out there current is a necessity.

There were several themes in these articles that are important ideas for any 21st century library. One is that the role of being a gatekeeper of information, the guardian of knowledge and the collector of books is going away. This may not be true in special libraries whose purpose is to collect and preserve certain items, but it certainly is in school libraries. I find I chose to emphasize use of the resources of the library over worrying about keeping things where they belong and limiting use of those resources. I agree with Anderson when he says that it is not about teaching skills as much as it is about working to remove barriers to student access to information. As user interface becomes simpler, patrons really don't need to understand how something works. They just need to be encouraged to use it.

Another area that is being revolutionized is service. The old style of library was you come into my space, use my resources the way I allowed you to and followed my rules. Now, patrons want access to information and, increasingly, I am interested in giving it to them in the space and form they want it in. For instance, I love the idea of giving them access to the collections of the nearly public and other school libraries. I like shifting to the idea of having a 24/7 web presence to help with homework and questions after hours. Although school libraries do have the advantage of having a 'captive' patron base (the teacher brings the class, so they have to be there), I have to be sure that the service I give them is so useful that they think to come back on their own the next time. Service is the top item I offer to the teaching staff as well. I try to have enough knowledge about different sources of information that when they need something, they ask me and I not only get what they ask for, but show them some other way of getting or using that information. Like us, teachers are busy in their classrooms and are not always aware of new ways of finding or using information. I try to teach new things to the adults as well as the students.

Finally, I liked the article by Schultz discussing the evolution of libraries from collections to service centers and finally to experiences. I believe she has captured where we are going. It is not that we will totally leave all of our old functions behind. I still want to be the place where kids come to ask me for book recommendations and discuss what they are reading with each other (although I agree with Anderson that the goal of having the definitive print collection is passe). But the library has evolved into a service based place and we are definitely experimenting with becoming an experience. The web 2.0 tools will give us ways to extend this into cyberspace. I want to do both--give kids a place to find and use ideas virtually and in real time, face to face. Community gathered is still an essential part of the human experience and I hope the library will find a way to facilitate that need for our school.

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