Thoughts on: Richard Watson “In praise of public libraries – and librarians”

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I came across this post on Richard Watson’s Top Trends blog today: In praise of public libraries – and librarians.

In it, Richard comments on the fact that he predicted the extinction of public libraries some time ago, “because, in an age of e-books and Google who needs them.” and since this prediction he has changed his mind.

“I got it totally wrong. Probably.

Whether or not we will want libraries in the future I cannot say, but I can categorically state we will need them, because libraries aren’t just about the books they contain. Moreover, it is a big mistake, in my view, to confuse the future of books or publishing with the future of public libraries. They are not the same thing.”

His blog post highlights why he believes public libraries will still be relevant in the future.

He emphasises the public library (and public library services) as…

  • A place that is “more than mere facts, information or ‘content’”
  • A social hub
  • An information resource that is accessible to all
  • An ideas hub where…
    • existing ideas are valued,  stored and made freely available to all
    • new ideas are created and developed
    • the right setting is provided to nurture ideas
    • librarians act as a catalyst in helping develop these ideas. They are “sifters, guides and co-creators of human connection.”
  • An information resource where personal/human interaction is an important part of the service
  • An influential method of delivering information – library services are still regarded as trustworthy information sources.

This quote about lack of use by younger generations really appealed to me:

“…admittedly many younger people still see no need to visit a library… But this could be because they still see libraries as spaces full of old books rather than places full of new ideas.”

And in summing up, Richard’s quote makes a clear point.

“There is a considerable amount of discussion at the moment about obesity. The idea that we should watch what we eat or we will end up prematurely dead. But where is the debate about the quality of what and where we read or write? Surely what we put inside our heads – where we create or consume information – is just as important as what we put inside our mouths.”

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