Libraries and librarians…are…a kind of secular clergy, a trusted ear and an unbiased source of information and support to anyone who walks in the door. This is the compact we have at the deeper levels of our engagement with our communities past the bestsellers and free internet. There is a web of trust. Our users know, or should know, that they can come to us with issues and concerns and that we will leverage our best abilities to their ends. No matter what crazy crap is going on in your life the librarian will figure it out and set you up with at least some better understanding and a direction to go in.
These are all major accomplishments, and we librarians have every right to be proud of them. But the world is moving on. Each of the services we’ve provided in the digital arena has been — or is being — superseded by new and better technologies or by other organizations better suited to deliver services electronically. And when Google has finished its scanning project, it will have no more use for us or our collections either. So after more than 50 years in the digital market, libraries have come right back to where they started. Our dream of an electronic library has been built, but others own and manage it. We are left with the tangible property we began with, our physical books, the thousands of buildings that house them, and the millions of people still coming through our doors to use them. In reality, those are not inconsiderable assets — especially in a world where it may become increasingly uneconomical to have physical bookstores or places where people can get together to listen to stories or discuss books and ideas. Figuring out how to exploit those assets in this new environment will not be easy. Perhaps we should turn our attention away from the electric library that others have built and focus on the real books and buildings that made us what we were to begin with. Perhaps that will continue to define us into the future. Or perhaps not. Perhaps we have new roles to play in the digital world or old roles to play but in a new way. Let’s think about that.
The day a virtual library becomes a legit place to hang out, or goof off with friends is the day physical libraries truly die. Information alone is only so valuable, after all.
Library sex began with high hopes. Long before the era of the public library, stories of sex among books were set in private collections, in secluded humanist studies. The protagonist of Antonio Vignali’s 1526 La Cazzaria (The Book of the Prick) examines a collection of raunchy books and manuscripts in a private study as he awaits the arrival of a lover. The presence of smutty works in progress is telling: there is an elegant cross-pollination here. Books inspire sex, sex creates books—and all within the four walls of the library.
Avi Steinberg, The Paris Review. Checking Out.
A brief history of libraries, librarians and sex in which we learn that “again and again,” in contemporary library-porn lit, “the neglected love life of the librarian is a stand-in for the doomed state of the library generally.”
Amazon announced today that Kindle and Kindle app users can now check out electronic books from 11 thousand local libraries around the United States.
You know, like we do with analog books. Except this time you receive the book via WiFi or USB.
Unlike analog books you can make margin notes and highlights and librarians won’t give you the stink eye for doing so.
Visit your local library’s Web site to see if it’s participating in the program.
We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.
Paul Higgins: I have been saying exactly the same thing to educators recently. The changes in technology we are seeing are a fantastic opportunity for the great educators and teachers. When information is a commodity then the ability to facilitate learning and teach critical thinking skills rises to the top. Good teachers celebrate, poor teachers beware.