Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A future without libraries? A radical new idea

On a librarian listserv there was the following post today. Wanted to put it on LISNEWS so people could comment:
(Because the post is slightly longer than LISNEWS allows on the front page make sure you click the "read more" link at bottom of post. You will know if you have the whole thing if you see the last line that says: What do YOU think of my idea? )

This is only my opinion and has been posted to many lists for feedback. (Sorry about any duplicate posts you may receive)

I can envision a future without libraries. Yes, without libraries...but with more librarians.

1. More and more resources are online. Even ones formerly available only in print are now also online. And many are available only online.
2. Users increasingly want resources only if they are online. They don't want to have to go tot the library to answer their questions.
3. Is it fiscally responsible to require users to spend their valuable time to come to the library?
4. Is it fiscally responsible to allow users to spend their valuable time looking for information online when they a) do not know where to search, b) do not know how to search (effectively), and c) probably do not know how to determine if the information they find is correct or reliable?

So, I can see a future without physical libraries but with librarians embedded within the units of the organization. These librarians would be professionally trained (degreed) not only in librarianship, with an emphasis on customer service, but also in the subject matter of the users.

This would be a reasonable scenario for corporate, medical, law, and non-profit organizational libraries. It could also work in school libraries with classroom collections and a librarian that visits each classroom on a frequent schedule (or as requested) to teach and answer questions and help with research projects. This system could even work with academic institutions, with the distribution of the main library (which often serves as a sort of archives where 98 percent of the books never leave the shelves) to departmental collections and librarians in each department.

I know that this is a radical departure from current practice. However, I am at a point in my career (almost retired) where I am free to look back and forward at the same time, leading to this type of thinking.

What do YOU think of my idea?

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