Omniscient marketing guru Seth Godin turned his eye toward the eternal question of how libraries should remain relevant in the digital age:
They can’t survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don’t want to own (or for reference books we can’t afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That’s not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.
Here’s my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative.
Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.
I thnk @itsjustkate sums my reaction to this rather eloquently:
so, wait… we *should* be helping ppl learn to find and contextualize info? Oh! *smacks forehead*
Gee thanks, Seth. All this time we’ve been pottering about in our workspaces, dusting and shushing the entire time, with our hair in buns and cats in our pockets. All we need to do to reinvent ourselves is to espouse the core belief behind our profession.
But rather than get too worked up about this, it may be better to consider the big picture. If Godin is seeing our industry this way, then we definitely have a problem. And while the biblioblogosphere/twitterverse/Friendfeed spaces help maintain an active flow of ideas, it’s still an inside-baseball echo chamber. Granted, that’s a feature rather than a bug, but it’s a reminder of how rarely our efforts are recognized on the larger scale.
So I’m hoping Mr. Godin will read this and give someone from the library world the opportunity to demonstrate just how well and how often we help people (in Godin’s parlance) scale otherwise insurmountable intellectual heights.
There are dozens of librarians out there who could do this. Jessamyn West. Buffy Hamilton. Brian Herzog. Bobbi Newman. Jason Griffey. The Darien coterie. Richard Kong*. And that’s just a small sampling – any attempt to list everyone would be a futile effort. I’m inspired by my colleagues every day, and it gives me such hope to see so many people being awesome in public.
To librarians who don’t see this as their raison d’etre, please don’t let the door to the profession hit you on the ass on your way out.
And to Seth, how about it? Why not use your considerable megaphone to let us demonstrate what we’ve accomplished, and how much more we’re capable of?