The comment that leapt out at me during the interview process and has stuck in my head since I wrote the article was from Doug Ross, CEO of Booksfree, who said:
“When you go into a library, more than half the space is taken up with entertainment product. Mass market paperbacks and hardcovers are all over the place and there’s a little bit of room where kids can go in and do research and use computers.”
I found the phrase “entertainment product” totally jarring and assumed librarians would hate it, too. But when Ross posted similar comments in a response to a post entitled “Will Libraries Go the Way of Video Stores?” on Strollerderby, the librarians who responded in turn weren’t outraged at him. They seemed more irritated by the original post. One commenter, Matthew, wrote:
“Admittedly, I am annoyed by this reoccuring question: ‘Will libraries go the way of videostores?’ or, phrased another way, ‘Have libraries outlived their necessity?’. Both of these questions assume that libraries are primarily about books, and not about information & literacy. All of this assumes that all citizens have the same level of easy access to newer technologies, and that class doesn’t separate us as information consumers.“
It’s true that I, and most people reading this entry, don’t need to use computers at the library because they have their own computers at home and at work. And the realization that librarians themselves think libraries are much more than books is a good reminder that they are many different things to different people. So how ARE people using libraries? The results of a recent Pew survey “challenge the assumption that libraries are losing relevance in the internet age. Libraries drew visits by more than half of Americans (53%) in the past year for all kinds of purposes, not just the problems mentioned in this survey. And it was the young adults in tech-loving Generation Y (age 18-30) who led the pack. Compared to their elders, Gen Y members were the most likely to use libraries for problem-solving information and in general patronage for any purpose.”
We’ll delve into more of the results of the Pew report in the next post.
PT will still never refer books “entertainment product,” though.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Here’s Kate, “The Library“