Monday, September 24, 2012

What if .....?

It is one of those days when a veteran librarian sits back and ponders on the question of What if....? The mind begins to go in various different directions with no particular goal of discovering a new idea or saving the world. With any luck inspiration might strike by just posing the question of What if.... ? What if libraries were gathering spaces for people to meet and talk about whatever interests them. this seems like a natural progression since libraries are often the place to find, search and explore new ideas. However, it is the reverent silence of learning that made libraries the original home school support system. So is silence really golden? Have libraries given up on the silence because that would mean giving up new technology? Should children be seen in libraries but not heard? Disturbing indeed if silence would creep back into the library. It would seem to the younger generation that the library is a graveyard. What if libraries could partner with businesses and the community to share what would be good for the community and how the libraries can play an instrumental role in helping communities grow. That growth won't be evident in the first couple of years of partnerships but realistically it can show fruition years down the line. One more important fact is that these businesses can become allies when funding for the library shrinks. What if it were a perfect world and every resident visited their local library at least once a week. Some communities are lucky to have the core dedicated patrons but sometimes that is not enough. Libraries need to strive on a daily basis to help non-library users to find their reason to come into the library. Of course, the pitfall may be that the library will lose it's "brand" when trying to be all things to all people. That is a trap to avoid when being open to the possibilities of new programs. What if hardcover books cease paper publication within five years? Will libraries be prepared to assist the community to accept the change to digital or will they lag behind Would it be so bad that few books would be shelved or damaged due to weather or overuse? Are librarians resistant to change? If the answer is yes, the community in which they serve will suffer. Not only that, the library itself will suffer due to fewer patrons finding use of it. The doors will be closed for good. If the answer is no, the other questions are irrelevant. The landscape for learning and growing will be rich and inviting. What if when the digital age is in full swing, libraries would be the leaders in directing the next step of technology and struggling to keep up with the latest and greatest. This is a difficult one to think through since many librarians are not technology geeks but have become so due to the many gadgets that retrieve and gather information. Will there be a mobile library in the digital era that will allow users to download information anywhere, anytime and anyhow? Of course this is already happening but consider what could come next? A TIVO like app on your phone that will automatically download the newest books from authors that you have previously read and liked. If it's not already here, and instincts say that it is, it will be soon. The world seems to be changing faster then ever. It's the old adage that comes to mind that says if you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen. Fortunately, there are many librarians on the forefront of the "heat" who are willing to test the boundaries of where libraries can and should go, while the rest of us watch with awe at the new services that could be provided for our patrons. One thing libraries should never lose is the human touch. Libraries have that unique ability to change lives in subtle yet remarkable ways. Perhaps this is where the inspiration of the What if... has lead. How do librarians keep the human touch in their work when technology can potentially take the place of interacting with humans? Something to ponder for next time.
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