Seth Godin’s short post on the library of the future got a lot of librarians stirred up, which is how I found out about it. He criticizes the current model of libraries as “community-funded repositories for books that individuals don’t want to own (or for reference books we can’t afford to own)” and says it is unsustainable. The strange thing is that I think even the people who seem to agree with him get it wrong. (‘It’, of course, being what libraries are and will be in the future.)
The comments and criticisms seem to fall into two categories. Either people get defensive, or they agree with his criticisms of the current state of the library and say that the answer lies in focusing more on the organisation of information and becoming an ‘information hub’ (i.e., libraries need more computers).
But the most important bit in Godin’s post is the last sentence:
What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.
This isn’t organising information and this isn’t more computers…not that there is anything wrong with either of those things, it’s just not what libraries need to focus on. Notice there isn’t a mention of these “leaders, sherpas and teachers” being librarians, but why shouldn’t they be? This reminded me of discussions I have been having with friends and colleagues about the future for libraries and librarians. As my friend Indy puts it, librarians should not be information managers, but agent provocateurs. This is what I think Godin is getting at. I don’t want to peddle information for a living. I want to make people think.