Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax

3 Oct

And the one place, beside “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, where they can all be found.  It’s amazing when you think about what the library brings under its roof (physical or metaphoric).  With all those wonders at our fingertips, and the fingertips of our patrons, do we still need to try to convince communities and people we’re relevant?

This is a hotly debated issue right now, with most librarians firmly in the mindset of “convince or die”.  The fear is that without our advocacy, the library will be overlooked and forgotten, a relic of ages past, tossed aside in favor of Google.  Unspoken in that fear is the belief that, at its heart, libraries are books.  At the very least, that librarians must be stewards of and gatekeepers to information.  This is a bad core belief.

It served us well for centuries, from incunabula all the way to Hemingway.  Today, we need to rethink ourselves and what I believe the inevitable conclusion to the rethought is: we are not gatekeepers, stewards, or any other previous metaphor.  Literally, we are information managers, and we need to start acting like it.  This means being proactive with the organization of information online, looking at semantic web and clouded data, allowing users far more access to tagging and organizing than we’d like.  We aren’t the be-all, end-all on usability.  We need to beef up our metadata, and work with search engines like Google (who is not our enemy) in order to bring library holdings to Google results as well as Google Scholar.

It’s not about convincing people we’re still relevant.  It’s about being relevant, still.

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