I’ve been struggling with the concept of libraries and the future for a long time, the last few posts being only a continuation. About a week ago I finished Alan Webber’s Rules of Thumb and realized I’d picked up something important in regard to it, but it hadn’t gelled. Thus the two recent posts trying to make it come together.
I had my aha! moment last night, and it’s the title of this post. Library schools were (and from what I’m hearing still are) teaching that the job of libraries is information. That sounds profound, yet it’s untrue. Or more accurately it’s only part of the job. The latest Stephen King novel isn’t “information” except in the most academic sense.
There’s a temptation to tighten that phrase a bit – to answer the question, “Access to WHAT?” or insist it’s “access to information.” I think that’s a mistake because we already provide access to several things besides information. Consider the general acceptance in the library field that a public library has four roles: information; education; entertainment; and social. Consider the computers we put in our libraries. We’re not providing information. We’re providing access to, well, potentially whatever our community and customers (sorry, “patrons”) need.
Our expertise is providing access.
I’ll be pondering that more, not least the question of what we’re not doing that needs done given that principle, and sharing it as I get it straight in my mind. Actually given the nature of this blog, you might see “thinking out loud” posts as well. So… more later.