Sound-off on what libraries should be

I’m wondering if I’m just old fashioned, and maybe my idea of what a library is needs to evolve, but it seems to me a library is a place where one goes to read or pick up books to read at home.

Now that libraries are turning into an inexpensive video store and gaming room and people are buying their own e-books so that they can read at their own pace, and carry their books around easily, we need to examine our mission statements.

We set up game rooms and congratulate ourselves on increasing the numbers of people coming in, but if they leave with a DVD rented for $1 and no books, or if they come to game and then leave empty handed, we have failed.

Any department store that had customers coming in and looking but not buying would be worried and would be changing their strategies.

I believe that libraries are first and foremost places that promote a love of reading. Video games and movies don’t need promotion. We should be fostering a sense of community by establishing more reading clubs and creative activities that respond to books that patrons have actually read, which will make other patrons want to read those books. Some examples of these activities would be a skit night, sharing poems inspired by books the patron has read, events like that. Of course, certain patrons would be shy to participate, but if it’s visual art that is already prepared, or if it is a filmed presentation, the other patrons wouldn’t see their mistakes.

Please leave a comment to tell me if I’m out in left field or not.

About P. Joy Webster

Author of "Don't come here, Julie!" Auteure de « Ne viens pas ici, Julie!» School Library Technician and ESL teacher Technicienne en documentation scolaire et professeure d'anglais langue seconde.
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4 Responses to Sound-off on what libraries should be

  1. Danielle R. says:

    Hi Joy, I’ll bite!
    Libraries came of age when print was the primary avenue for information consumption/literacy aquision (I’m making the non-fiction/fiction point here). Libraries allow the masses, should they desire it, equal opportunity to the knowledge and literacy. They are the great equalizer! Times have changed and information consumption/literacy avenues have greatly diversified. Libraries have and will change to meet the needs of our society. We no longer rely on the printed word solely to meet those needs. I see your point about video games and dvd- it feels like a betrayal to the glorious book. However, in our digi world- the same recreation that great fiction (or non-fiction too I suppose) offers now comes in some kind of digital format. While I believe that a uniquely digital format “diet” of consumption may be a bit like having a packaged-food based diet- definitely not the healthiest choice. I do believe that if libraries remain the great equalizers then digi format must be embraced not pushed back.
    I love books. I love the book experience. I love everything about getting into a great story. I’m doing my best to pass that love down to my kids. Digi-media definitely often feels like a vicious competitor- but it’s here to stay, so let’s use it wisely, to best of it’s capacity. Let’s make it work for us, rather than us working for it.
    danou 🙂

    • Hey, Danou,

      I like what you said about using both print and digital and I agree. The point I was trying to make was that it seems like digital is REPLACING print and that worries me.

      I am travelling right now and am enjoying an e- book on my phone. I love both print and digital but am scared that libraries will become obsolete.

      I guess the trick is to have good programs and the patrons will continue coming in order to have the human contact they can’t get from e-books.

      • danielle says:

        I suppose there is a slight clarification… are we discussing ebooks vs paper books or paper books and all that digital media might imply? I was referring more to the larger digital media package. eg: some say that gaming is the new storytelling/writing for youth.

        Ebooks more common than paper? It’s heading that way and I say great! Get more books in more hands. Books aren’t going anywhere. Stories aren’t going anywhere. The way it’s packaged is changing. So libraries do well to keep up with the package options! or risk being obsolete! Libraries don’t need to worry about attracting bibliophiles – they already come and will always come. They’ll tell you what books they like and you order them and they will come. How does one create new bibliophiles? Get good resources in their hands?

        Also, I have to say, I feel a bit cranky (rightly so or not) when all the public use computers at the library are being used for facebook. Is FB considered as essential as internet access?? Is it another avenue of human connection where stories are created & shared? Is FB the new library writer’s group? (I don’t know- do writer’s meet in libraries? maybe not?)

        Also, I think there should be a nation wide ban on fines for home educators! (lol!!! just kidding! well not really!) 😉

      • A little more clarification: I’m concerned that libraries may spend their budget on e-books rather than staff because e-books don’t need to be shelved or repaired and nobody needs to check on overdues. These books can be available 24/7 and the patrons do the circulation. 20 years from now, will the library be a server in the basement at City Hall, run by one part time worker?

        I’m just saying that we need to think about that and let people know everything we do.

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