The Library Bubble: Why It’s Important and Why We Need to Burst It

abstract-1782383_1920In the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the bubbles I create for myself – the bubble that made the recent election results so utterly unimaginable to me, the bubble that keeps me safely in libraryland, and, most succinctly and humorously, the bubble as portrayed by Saturday Night Live. My bubble is comfortable and I reinforce it every day. My social media feeds, the people I surround myself and seek out conversations with, and what I read, listen to, and watch contribute to it. My personal bubble is my safety net, a place where I can explore and develop ideas, confront my personal biases, and find people with a similar point of view. But recently it’s also been exposed as a limiting, blinding force field in a troubling and unexpected way.

Considering my personal bubble, however, has also led me to confront my professional bubble. When I first decided to pursue a career in librarianship, I was constantly challenged and questioned about my choice – “aren’t libraries obsolete? Good luck in a dying profession! Google has replaced the library anyway.” And at that point, I didn’t have succinct answers readily at hand like I do now. I had to grapple with these questions – why does librarianship matter, why am I pursuing it, what impact do libraries have and what can they be? Building my library bubble had a lot to do with identifying support networks, building a foundation for my theory of practice, and connecting with like-minded peers and colleagues. The bubble has been important to me. But now, over five years since I seriously started thinking about becoming a librarian, over two years since I started as a paraprofessional, and over a year into my MLIS program, it’s easy for me to fall comfortably back into the answers I’ve repeated over and over again. I can’t help but wonder if this is complacency.

These days almost no one I know challenges me on why I decided to become a librarian. If I do hear anti-library comments or stumble on another exhausting “libraries are obsolete” think piece, my standard reaction is to shrug, roll my eyes, or laugh it off. I know libraries are important and all the people I surround myself know libraries are important. Obviously, these uninformed opinions must be a minority reaction. But I’m no longer content to believe that – I don’t want to sit in my complacency until the important work of libraries slips away from us.

The most frustrating thing is that I don’t have any answers. I don’t know how we can go about changing the minds of library naysayers or reaching those outside of the bubble. Traditional advocacy routes seem hollow and based in organizations that may not have the best interests of the people at heart. All I know is that I want to find new ways to challenge my bubble – to understand those who don’t understand libraries.

For now, I’m doing what I do best – compiling resources and synthesizing information. Below are some resources I’m finding helpful, and I’d be really glad to read any that you’re finding useful in the comments. If you have any recommendations for possible action, leave those as well! Let’s reach beyond our bubbles.

Bubble-Bursting Resources:

-Eli Pariser’s 2011 TEDTalk about filter bubbles

Digital politics: are we trapped within our online filter bubbles? by Stuart Dredge at The Guardian

-University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (shout out to all our UC hackers!) has a pretty great LibGuide about filter bubbles.

EveryLibrary is my favorite advocacy organization – they work with libraries that are running public campaigns for funding.

3 replies

  1. I feel this. Over Thanksgiving weekend I had so many people ask what I do at the library and when I explained some of the children’s programs I’m going to be running in the winter I was met with so many blank stares. What was encouraging was anytime I mentioned one of the programs to a parent they understood why programs about star wars, sensory play, and fun math belong in a library. My bubble understands that library are not simply books. Whenever talk to those outside of the library bubble, I feel like I’m fighting to prove the worth of my work and wondering if maybe they’re right.
    I am left with the same feeling as you though, because I don’t feel I have an answer to this problem.

    Liked by 1 person

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