I read this blog post (Accepting Criticism) by Carl Clayton earlier, which was focused on recent responses to an author’s criticism of libraries.
The following is the response I posted on Carl’s blog. As I said at the end of my response, it’s more of a comment on a side issue raised by his post.
The thought that keeps popping into my head (and this post has caused it pop up again) is that library staff and/or campaginers don’t have a common agreement around the purpose of public libraries. I’m not talking about a divide between library staff or campaigners, by the way. As you’ve highlighted, some people will argue that libraries should be places of learning and steer clear of popular fiction? Other people will suggest that ebooks don’t have a place in libraries and that we should continue to focus on the printed book. Super central libraries are the focus for some people and others see the benefits of more smaller libraries focusing on a local communities specific needs. Should we be building on technology as much as we are? Should we be trying to re-define the purpose of the library, or is the current core-purpose of the library sufficient and people just need reminding of it? Should libraries be places where content is created, or should they solely be for accessing content? Should we try to be more like bookshops? I imagine (from conversations I’ve had, speakers I’ve heard and articles and blog posts I’ve read) there are plenty who would argue for/against each of these ideas, and I wonder that while we have such a wide range of ideas amongst us how we can move on with some sort of agreed purpose for public libraries?
I suppose this comment is more of an aside to your blog post, but as those thoughts popped into my head again whilst reading it, I thought I’d share.