Friday, December 21, 2007

What A Library Must Be

I'm sorry, my friend, but you have travelled too far from your true path. You have tried to be relevant and popular, you have tried to entertain the poor and seduce the rich. You have tried to adopt new technology, to develop new programs- anything to attract attention. But, despite a temporary increase in transactions when you start rent DVDs or videogames, you know you are in trouble. You have that quiet desperation of one lost, not knowing your meaning.

You were always meant to be a place where people from all walks of could come to learn. It was never about being a place for all people, or getting more people to come- it was about being available to that one person out of thousands who actually wanted to know something. That one person could be from any walk of life but that one person is very different from any person. That person has decided to learn.

This doesn't mean you are supposed to be a school. When people go to school, the vast majority of things they are "taught" are things they don't really want to know. I've watched them, trying to memorize huge chunks of history for a test, not actually finding any of it meaningful. No, my friend, your patron cares about his subject and he is engaging in self-directed learning.

So, you must be patient. The internet only provides more information faster, but it does not make the job of sifting through it any easier. That one person will come to you and then you have a chance to shine, if you haven't sold out. Hopefully, your shelves will be filled with real knowledge, and not the latest dvds, romance novels, etc... Hopefully your programs will be about learning new skills and not about the latest popular fads.

I realize this can be an uncomfortable position. You must be visible, known to others, and yet vunerable, for you must wait for others to come to you. You must stock items that the vast majority of people will not want to see, yet you must also act as if any of that vast majority, no matter how unlikely is exactly the person you are here for. There are no comfortable areas of exclusion, save for self-selection among your patrons. They will tell you that they want to learn, what they want to learn, and then you can show them how.

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