I’ve always been a fan of the Huffington Post. It’s been a great resource for (liberal) news and staying on top of viral videos. That’s why I was initially excited when I heard that the site started a page dedicated to librarians. Until I clicked over. Go ahead, check it out but come right back…
…personally, my excitement quickly turned to frustration. This site feels overly sensationalized. Yes, libraries are fighting an uphill battle in terms of funding and many libraries are facing many barriers to staying open. But calling the site “Libraries in Crisis” makes it sound like the whole industry is doomed. Which it’s not.
The stories featured on this site seem to fit two molds: profiles featuring libraries that are on the verge of closure or tales of the incredible effort of communities who gather donations or signatures to keep the library open (with a good mix of literary celebrities adding their voice to the cause) . It’s wonderful that libraries who need help are getting their stories out and tales of success are being shared. But this site provides too narrow a view of what is really happening. We live in a time where many libraries are adapting and providing innovative resources and services for their patrons, and thus thriving. Where are those stories? Why when I read over the Huffington Post’s page all I feel is sense of panic?
I was speaking with fellow library student Alyssa Vincent (and previous guest poster here at HLS), who made a great point comparing this page to HuffPo’s book page. Even though we are seeing radical changes to the publishing industry, including the closing of bookstores across the country, we’re not seeing alarms going off or stories that only focus on the book store closures. Why does this have to be a “libraries-in-crisis” page and not just a “library” page?
Over at The M Word, author Kathy Dempsey brings up a great point: that the stories featured on this page are an excellent starting point for discussions. We can read the comments to see what patrons are saying, what they want from their libraries and why they visit or don’t visit their local library. She advocates that we don’t sit on the sidelines but become active participants in the discussion. I couldn’t agree more. I think that this is an excellent opportunity to try to shift the public perception of what our libraries offer.
I hope that this page has a long shelf life on the Huffington Post, but only if it evolves. I understand that stories of library closures are much sexier than the latest controversies with Overdrive, but if we want to see the libraries as a national tradition continue, we need to step away from the extremism and start proving what we are capable of. Let’s see some library success stories on this page, too.
But this is just one librarian’s opinion. Maybe I’m off base. Maybe this is exactly what the public needs to see to get them more interested in caring about their library. Please share you thoughts, we’d love to know what you think!