Friday, January 7, 2011

There They Go Again...

... to borrow a quotation from Ronald Reagan.  [OMG. I just quoted Ronald Reagan. Facepalm]

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published yet another article about the death of academic libraries in its January 2, 2011 edition. I invite folks to read it, and especially to read the comments on the article itself.

The Chronicle seems to really enjoy this - perhaps because they can toss hyperbolic article titles out there, knowing that plenty of folks (including yours truly) will read them and generate enough buzz to get it noticed. This particular missive is written by an academic librarian who is, I think (as do several commenters), writing with a mixture of hyperbole and cautionary tale.

The only thing that really gets me about this kind of article is that there are plenty of administrators out there who look at stories like this and use it to justify starving their campus libraries more than they already are. They regard libraries as costly overhead that is taking up space and money that could be used by their favorite pet project (usually something just as costly, with less concern for providing service to students).

The pity is, there are still some libraries (and librarians) out there who still want to pretend that it's still the 70's and 80's, using outmoded models of service and collection quality/quantity that have little to nothing to do with how most libraries run today. Fortunately, most libraries are well past that point. And I am not just talking about cutting/bleeding edge operations, either; most libraries and librarians are looking at how they can change within the environment they operate in, making changes as they can and assessing how those changes are working. This isn't the same library that I started working at going on 20 years ago - at least, from a "how we do things" perspective. Are those changes blindingly obvious? A few are, but most are changes that many people would not notice if they don't pay attention.

I suspect that many, many libraries see themselves in that way, and wonder (as I do) if we are changing fast enough. I think that the bottom line is to do the best you can do to look at how and why you do what you do and always ask the question, "how could we make it better?" Sometimes you can't, because of lack of money or staff, or other reasons beyond your control. But that doesn't mean you don't think about it.