Big discussion about the future of libraries over on Make. I find this somewhat unusual, because I haven’t often witnessed this debate happening outside the library professional community. It’s actually the continuation of a discussion started on the site the week before, where the author suggested that libraries should be replaced by tech workshops. You know, because libraries are obsolete in the digital age. That first article was horrible. The author stated openly that he never goes to the library, and asserted that most people don’t either. And his ignorance showed. Nearly every comment was opposed to his idea, but when presented with valid criticisms, the author’s only response was, “So what’s your idea?”
The more recent article is somewhat more balanced. Yet, while stating that he’s just trying to stimulate dialog, the author seems completely unaware that this dialog has been going on amongst library professionals for a long, long, time.
The whole gist of the discussion is that, as a segment of the library using community, (potentially, I guess, since the author doesn’t use the library) the maker community (as represented by the author) thinks the library should do a better job of meeting its needs. That’s all well and good, right? That’s one of the things libraries do, meet the information needs of the community. The question that isn’t addressed is why the needs of the maker community should take precedence over the needs of the segments of the community that currently ARE using the library. It sounds to me as if the author thinks his community is THE community. Once again, it shows his lack of understanding of what libraries are for and what they do.
Many of his commenters suggested that type of community space he’s seeking would fit better in a community center,or a separate add-on to a library building, mainly because of the logistics around band saws and study carrels sharing the same space. Another suggestion was to re-introduce shop class to public schools. I agree that both options, community centers and shop classes, are better spaces for the type of innovation the author hopes to foster in the community.
Because ultimately, it sounds like his argument is that libraries favor one type of innovation/information/learning style over the one that he prefers. But there isn’t any reason why libraries shouldn’t favor one style over another. Libraries foster the exploration of language-based information. As the exploration of information evolves beyond the written or even spoken word, it’s all that more important that libraries remain spaces that preserve language-based information, while other spaces evolve elsewhere. Of course, these other spaces will also compete for funding.