Librarians of the Future?

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.

2 thoughts on “Librarians of the Future?

  1. Pingback: The Future of Libraries and the new role of the librarian « Allisonjohnson2's Blog

  2. There was a post-Apocolypse film a few years ago which posited the postman as the one enduring link to civilisation (The Mailman?). Good as far as it went but my experience after 3 months of life in the 1870s was that the libraries were the second municipal functions to return, the first being the police/Territorials. Firemen weren’t necessary until the houses were habitable.

    People camping in their cars still used the library wireless and eventually DSL connections to stay in touch with the world and file gvmnt paperworks. Old PCs were dragged in and set-up and the library ladies were like school teacher/referees.

    The locus of order and help were the libraries, all other gvmnt offices being abandoned and without power. The libraries were swiftly equipped with generators and a soldier each. Books on higher shelves survived but the mulch was removed, windows covered and library personnel were the civil face of government for months after. Libraries aren’t going anywhere.