It sometimes feel like the debate over the future of libraries and librarians will never go away. Recently, volunteer-run / community led libraries in the UK have become quite an emotive issue and raised concerns over whether professional libraries run by professionally trained, paid staff are under threat. Yes, these kind of crises are nothing new but still the debate persists. But as I always like to look on the bright side, I’ll suggest that perhaps this is a good thing. As professionals (and just as people!) we should keep questioning and re-evaluating what we do, this is how we learn and improve. Our profession is a constantly developing one and we need to keep pace with technological progress, developments in information literacy, knowledge management etc. So, for us, it’s good to question what we are doing and why, and make sure that we stay fully relevant and effective with a clear purpose.
Another aspect to this debate is the need to show other people what we do. If librarianship is constantly questioned by those outside of the profession, perhaps we need to be more demonstrative of what we do and how what we do is good for them. Not just to the general public (who can be seen to be very supportive of libraries in a lot of places) but also to the ‘decision makers’. Before starting my MLIS I took a great online course called ‘Library Advocacy Unshushed‘, a MOOC through edX / University of Toronto. This highlighted the need to show the value of libraries and librarianship to those who ultimately make the decisions about budget cuts and closures. Not by showing that they should want what we have, but by showing that what we have and do is what they want.
For those portions of the general public who don’t see the value of libraries, let’s inform them! Yes, there still is a lot of misunderstanding and stereotyping of librarianship, so let’s get dispelling it! Again, reflecting and questioning is good – if we understand it properly ourselves, then we can explain it to others.
Personally, I don’t feel like the end is nigh. I’m heartened by things in the UK like Voices for the Library and The Library Campaign and CILIPs recent vote to actively oppose amateurisation. These things can only be good in raising awareness of the issues and challenging misinformation about the profession. But I’m also not complacent. Libraries are closing and jobs are being lost. We need to address this. Librarianship is all about providing information to people, and we’ve got to start by providing information about what librarianship is for people.
What do you think? Does the future look bright?