5 Reasons Why Librarians Are Your Only Hope
Public libraries are currently under attack. As governments of all levels experience increasing budget pressure, many critics question the need for public libraries. With the growing prevalence of the internet and e-book readers, public libraries are accused of being a luxury we can’t afford when higher priority services are having their budgets cut. But this is because the role of libraries as community and cultural centers is often undervalued in our increasingly digital world, not because they don’t provide that value.
Shrinking local budgets coupled with the democratization of information that technology brings can create the perception that public libraries are becoming obsolete. Their services that focus on building community face-to-face, educating patrons about art, literature, and music, and helping citizens engage in civics may seem quaint. But it’s because of those shrinking budgets and the impersonal nature of technologically that public libraries’ cultural and community offerings are more important than ever.
Library information science graduates are uniquely positioned to focus on the experience of their library’s users. They understand their information needs and help them navigate complex systems, whether the medium is physical books, an archive, or a database or the internet. Here, then, are some of the many reasons that public libraries and librarians are not only needed, but essential.
- Online doesn’t always mean free. Between newspaper and magazine paywalls, journal subscriptions, and the cost of books, financial limitations are still a barrier to access for many people regardless of where they’re accessing their information. Libraries ensure access for all.
- Open access is gaining importance. Libraries have been at the forefront of the open access movement and have set up repositories to archive publications while librarians advocate for changes in publishing policies. And with changes seeming inevitable, the institutions and staff behind them will play a vital role in storing and distributing that information.
- The digital divide is growing. The gap between not only the rich and poor, but the information rich and information poor, is growing at an increasing rate. As more information is available online, too many people are without the means to access it and libraries play an essential role in democratizing it.
- The quality of the information on the internet varies. As easy as it is to search for information, being able to distinguish between what’s reliable and what’s unreliable is ever more important. A librarian can assess the quality of the information and help better guide users.
- Preserving our digital heritage. Libraries have always played an essential role in preserving information for future generations. Because of this, we have vast stores of inter-generational knowledge that documents the progression of our civilization. As more information moves from physical to digital mediums, we have an even greater opportunity to preserve in even greater detail and librarians can lead that preservation, documentation, categorization, and cataloguing.