Spent most of the day in discussions about the future of the library in the face of technology. It's a topic that, on the one hand, has been beaten to death, but on the other hand hasn't really begun to be explored. The reason for this is that there has somehow arisen a general societal "understanding" that libraries aren't needed in the age of the internet,
while librarians have just woken up in the past couple years that the ground that was underneath them is crumbling and won't be there in a few years and are grappling with what role librarianship will play in their communities. This is a professional discussion that will continue for years and will, if fruitful, rewrite the rules of librarianship.
Why is this important? Because libraries help communities educate themselves, and if they continue to fulfill that function (as I believe they should), libraries will continue to be centres of communities, not just as a physical place, but as an idea place - a place that exists in that airy world of bits and thought. This isn't just idle thrown-off the-internet-changes-the-rules conjecture (not just) - a library's ability to select, purchase and catalogue content, regardless of the format of that content, is a vital community function. This is (rather conveniently) tied in with my note below about the continuing role government organizations will play in ensuring community benefit from the internet.
I still have to wrap my head around this. It's one of the Big Topics faced by the emergence of the internet as backdrop to all our lives. Further ponderous notes as events warrant. :-) Please email me with your thoughts!Posted by Bill Stilwell at March 24, 2000 12:00 AM