Today I begin my final week as an MLIS student. I have been looking through old syllabi and other materials throughout this semester to reminisce a bit about the steps I’ve taken along the way and to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned, both in this class and in others. One theme that has become clear over the last two years has been the fact that the future of librarianship will be as much about managing change as about subject area knowledge or competency in certain skills. Nobody knows what the libraries of the future will look like or what formats will predominate. We will all need to adapt on the fly and to keep ourselves abreast of developments in our field whatever our feelings about those developments might be. At the same time we need to be sure that we continue to offer resources that appeal to all of our patrons and are mindful of creating collections that promote diversity and alternative points of view.
I doubt that the physical library with its physical collection will disappear. Just the same, it is clear that the library is we know it is in a period of change and librarians will need to embrace that evolution if our field is to remain relevant. For that reason I was encouraged by the opinions of the panel interviewed on the subject of e-books by Inouye (2016). Each of them directly or indirectly identified ways in which libraries and librarians can form a vital link in the chain between authors and readers however formats evolve from here. For instance, one panelist suggested that libraries might offer low-cost printing services for patrons who want e-books in a printed format or who are interested in an electronic title but don’t have an e-reader (Inouye, 2016). Another panelist noted the curatorial role librarians could play by identifying quality titles from among the low-cost or “alternatively published” titles now becoming available to readers.
Guernesy (TEDx Talks, 2014) picked up on similar themes in advocating for “media mentors.” Guernesy showed the ways in which young children need adults or other interpretive voices to help them make sense of the media they consume, whatever format that media happens to be. To me, librarians would be the perfect candidates to be “media mentors” or to help others develop the skills to be a “media mentor” for the young people in their lives. Librarians are trained to identify high-quality content and know which sources to look to for good information or well-crafted stories. We are also trained in aspects of instruction and in programming. All of these abilities would help us to promote “media mentorship” and strong literacy skills among children and young people.
Professor Moen and I had a brief discussion in our film group last Sunday about makerspaces and what role they will play in the libraries of the future. Makerspaces are obviously a topic of great interest in our profession. Just about every class I have taken in the MLIS program has had a unit on them and they featured prominently on our comprehensive exams. As Scott (2012) points out, makerspaces can be seen to align well with the public library’s mission. Makerspaces “facilitate the creation of knowledge that is an essential and fundamental part of the public library’s mission in society.” Put another way, “The makerspace is a natural extension of what we already do” (Scott, 2012).
I agree that makerspaces offer libraries an exciting opportunity to expand their patron base and can be seen as a modern twist on the library’s historic mission. However, I wonder whether the emphasis on the “gadgets” present in the makerspace (and in particularly 3D printers) will pull money away from other library services like the physical or virtual collection or the hiring of more library staff. I also wonder whether the emphasis on makerspaces will lead to a shift away from library offerings that serve older patrons. As Andersson noted in describing the construction of a makerspace at a Swedish library, “‘the genealogists will have to move over for the middleagers and the old story room is being remade into workshop with various tools and a laser cutter.’” (Andersson, 2014, p. 22). What Andersson doesn’t say is where the genealogists will go or whether the old story room is being replaced by a new story room. It’s easy to imagine old collections, resources or programmatic offerings being displaced to the detriment of patrons, some of them possibly older, who enjoy or rely upon those items.
I had a sense of the lack of diversity in children’s literature, but I had no idea how bad the problem was until our unit on the subject. The fact that fewer than three percent of children’s books are by or about Latinos even though almost one-quarter of schoolchildren are Latino (Blair, 2013) underscores how far we have to go. Sadly, I found a similar lack of diversity in the YA fiction collection I reviewed for my collection development project. If, as Adichie (2009) points out, we need to be sure that we are not telling a “single story,” we must make a particular effort to include titles in our collections that tell other stories so our young people have the means to develop an understanding of people unlike themselves. Our country is changing rapidly and libraries have an opportunity (and a responsibility) to be the drivers of tolerance and understanding.
I found the linked Tedx Talk by Pam Sandlian Smith to be very powerful. Her story of the little homeless boy who used his local library to stage a puppet show as an escape from the other issues in his life reminded me that we as librarians have the opportunity to touch patrons’ lives in ways we can’t always understand. As she notes, libraries are now collaborative spaces for learning, exploration, collaboration and community building. While I don’t agree with all of the points that she makes, I think that she is right that our communities will respond to us in proportion to the ways that we engage with them. I look forward to seeing how libraries change and to hopefully being a part of that change in the coming years!
Adichie, Chiamando Negozi (2009). The Danger of a Single Story. TED Talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg
Andersson, H. (2014). Makerspace. Scandinavian Public Library Quarterly, 47(4), 20-22.
Blair, E. (2013). As demographic shift, kid’s books staystubbornly white. Code Switch. National Public Radio http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/06/25/193174358/asdemographics-shift-kids-books-stay-stubbornly-white
Falmouth Public Library (2008e). Main Stacks.. Retrieved from: http://www.falmouthpubliclibrary.org/?/about/image_med/112/
Frame, J.A. (2003). Yesterday I had the blues. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle.
Inouye, A. S. (Jan 4, 2016). What’s in store for ebooks? American Libraries. American Library Association. http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2016/01/04/whats-store-ebooks/
Scott, S.H. (Nov 11, 2012). Making the case for a public library makerspace. Public Libraries Online. Public Library Association. Retrieved from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2012/11/making-the-case-for-a-public-library-makerspace/
TEDx Talks. (2013, December 16). Pam Sandlian Smith: What to expect from libraries in the 21st century [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/fa6ERdxyYdo
TEDx Talks. (2014, April 27). Lisa Guernesy: How the iPad affects young children, and what we can do about it. [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/P41_nyYY3Zg