That Fox News piece on libraries and the LibraryThing discussion going on about it.

The title of this post sums it up:

This came out a few days ago and the library world has been talking about it since.

There’s a really great discussion going on about this topic over at LibraryThing that I wanted to point everyone to.

Specifically, I was inspired by @librarythingtim’s comment…

Actually, although this is really unpopular to say, I think libraries have lost some of their high ground by moving away from the 19th-century idea that they had specific values to communicate–that libraries were there to educate, ennoble and uplift the town, as well as entertain. That’s totally how Carnegie’s era thought of it. As far as books, this is probably the wrong approach. Reading has value virtually no matter what you read, but I don’t feel the same about libraries with big DVD and CD collections, devote to exactly the same stuff you can get down the street at the mall. If the library stands for introducing children to reading, encouraging reading in adults, and being a place where you can explore the world generally, I’m all for it. To the degree libraries are just a free version of Blockbuster, that’s another story. Digitization is going to kill all that off within the decade anyway–both media are dying already, and by-wires digital media is licensed in such a way to prevent what libraries do, namely buy once and lend many times.

Very unpopular to say, but I think Tim raises some good points.  Often times we’re thinking inside the box about libraries.  What this comment does is challenge us to think about our past in regards to what we’ve been thinking our future may be.

What do you think?

One comment

  1. I agree–setting libraries up as the free Blockbuster is a doomed idea. But so is trying to be all high-and-mighty rescuing-America-from-lowbrow-culture about it. I’m a librarian, not an activist. I see the public library as a way to leverage buying power. Money from the community is pooled, then used to buy and share out resources that community members might not be able to afford individually. Those resources could be books, human resources like teachers and consultants, hardware and software, physical resources like a recording studio or an activity room, etc. It’s true that unless licensing laws change, video and music will be increasingly difficult to provide under this model. But I think it’s obvious that many other things can take their place. Information literacy and education is a fine mission for a library, but I don’t think a narrow book-centric view of what that means is very useful.

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