The saga with the St. Johnsbury Anathaeum is far from over. The protest over the past weekend has raised the issue in the eyes of the general public, but neither side is willing to budge. On Monday, the Caledonian Record published a truly idiotic letter from its editor. You can read the entire thing here.
What is most incorrect, backward and wrong is this statement:
“The reality is that society’s needs for public libraries are diminishing dramatically. Libraries are physical repositories of information — the need for which is being rendered obsolete for anyone with a tablet, laptop or mobile device.”
This is completely wrong. Libraries, more than ever, are of vast importance to the communities that they serve. Far beyond physical repositories of information, they house the expertise of the librarians, access to even LARGER sources of information on the web, and serve as an important community-building enterprise.
The letter goes on:
“Librarians — history’s most helpful gatekeepers and guides — are being replaced by Google, cloud computing and high speed data networks. They sadly will join legions of effected professionals — travel agents, postal workers, tax preparers, journalists, book-sellers, video-store owners — all of whom have had to adapt to changing technological landscapes.”
This is likewise incorrect. Computerized systems and search engines are a poor replacement for a librarian. Type in any sort of phrase into them, and you’ll receive millions of hits back – librarians are an important human interface to the vast amounts of information, and provide valuable assistance to library patrons.
There is a large amount of automation in the internet. Amazon.com, Facebook and Google all require algorithms to operate, based on a person’s past search history and browsing habits. A librarian is not hobbled by such perimeters, and can help searches navigate through the noise to find a signal.
Furthermore, the underlying premise of this person’s statements are incorrect: libraries have faced a surge in attendance in harsh economic times, providing an incredibly important life-line to those in the community who need it.
It would not be incorrect to say that the roles of libraries are changing in the digital age. However, one needs librarians in a library in order to enact changes for said library.