The More Things Change…

Browsing through a pile of notes and drafts, I found this introduction to an article that I never wrote:

Confronted with the alarmist metaphor of “The Digital Revolution”, some university libraries have transformed their traditionally quiet, austere spaces into social, service-rich areas to counteract the diminished headcounts caused by ubiquitous digital resources. The transformation appears to redefine the library’s role on campus, but we argue that the transformation is an extension and a refinement of the library’s mission, and a resource which can be exploited by changing some of the daily activities of librarians and other library support staff.

By offering public spaces for socializing, group work, and presentations/performances, the library gives itself an opportunity to become part of scholarly communication, as opposed to the repository for the end result (i.e. books). Using the tools of the previously disparaged digital revolution, the library can expand its role in collection development by proposing, refining, hosting, and capturing (collecting) academic activities which have been traditionally transitory and establishing context for those activities, thus creating a richer, more thorough academic repository. At the same time, the library can remain vital in the campus community and avoid the glum scenarios suggested by traditionalists who view the library’s mission as incompatible with the digital, global age.

This is old writing, both in its overly academic tone and in its wheedling attempt to convince the reader that libraries can be more than reading rooms. I can’t imagine anyone in an academic library needing the development of Library-as-Place and the transition to digital resources explained to them unless they’ve been unplugged and hiding for the past ten years.

But then that makes me wonder: is this still an issue? Are we still debating library-as-collection vs. library-as-services? Which side are you on, dear reader, and are you in the minority at your library?

Author:Charlie Bennett

Charlie Bennett is a librarian, a podcaster, and a radio host. He was born in New York and raised in Virginia before moving to Atlanta to study at the Georgia Institute of Technology. After earning degrees in Science, Technology, and Culture (STAC) and Economics, he stayed with the school and became an academic librarian at the Georgia Tech Library. He co-hosts the “one-and-only research-library rock’n'roll radio show” called “Lost in the Stacks” on WREK in Atlanta, and produces the irreverent podcast “Consilience With Pete and Charlie” about the intersection of science and the humanities.

Comments are closed.