This Isn’t Your Mother’s Library – The Modern Librarian

It isn’t a mere collection of old books laying on dusty shelves, with nearly as old matrons shushing patrons. It isn’t a card catalog in a rickety wooden cabinet, with some cards missing, others misfiled, and still more barely legible for all the smudges. And it certainly isn’t boring for anyone who isn’t an avid reader of Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Today’s library is a lively location. It is high tech, interconnected, and versatile. The librarians there are likely to be encouraging people to make a little noise. And the offerings the library provides has gone well past Bronte and the Encyclopedia Britannica.

To start with, there are the collections in the library themselves. In your mother’s library nearly everything available was filed away on the shelves as pages of paper glued and stitched together into books. Today, however, a significant percentage of a library’s collection has gone digital. These days, card catalogs are searched on computer terminals. Books can be checked out or renewed from home, and in some cases, the books themselves are electronic, shipped to mobile devices through expiring licenses. Today’s librarian has access to 18.5 million e-books that can be borrowed through a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

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That’s just the books. Journals, newspapers, even the librarians themselves can all be accessed electronically through today’s library. During an interview about library services at USC’s GIS library, Data Librarian Katharin Peter pointed out that she could be just as easily accessed digitally for questions as the books themselves.

“You can make an appointment with me. We can do Skype. I can do chat appointments, phone appointments. You can send me a detailed email, and I can respond that way.” Of these, she personally prefers Instant Messaging. “The IM chat is really one of my favorite tools because it’s 24/7. You can just quickly log on and say, help, I need full text of a database.”

Then there’s the expansion of the non-digital side of things. No longer are books the sole offering. Libraries these days sometimes include some surprising things. Ann Arbor, MI.’s library, for example, includes games, telescopes, and power tools.

Libraries have also expanded into very active spheres. Rather than being a quiet place where people shuffle between rows of books and hunch over tables looking vaguely worried their chair will squeak, libraries seek to be more lively spaces. Many libraries actively engage in community education and exercises in learning that require hands on participation for young and old alike.

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The Public Library in Nampa, with its brand new facility located in the heart of downtown has a busy schedule for June. The 4th is Teen Movie Night (“The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies”). On the 16th Art Endeavor will be holding classes in painting. On the 22nd community midwives will be presenting on neo-natal health and natural childbirth best practices. And on the 25th the Anime Club has their get together. Hadoken!

Rutgers Library Sciences professor Joyce Valenza created a 21st century librarian manifesto back in 2010. It reflects the changes that have been seen from your mother’s stuffy little library to today’s versatile public access point to the world, and to the library science career that oversees it. It is well worth a look over, but here are a few highlights.

  • You consider new ways to promote reading. You are piloting/supplying learners with downloadable audio books,Playaways, Kindles, iPads, Nooks.
  • Collection should include: ebooks, audiobooks, open source software, streaming media, flash drives, digital video cameras, laptops, tripods, RSS feeds, and much more!
  • You understand that library is not just a place to get stuff, it is a place to make stuff, collaborate on and share stuff. Not a grocery store, but a kitchen!

No, today’s library is a far cry from the place it was when your mother was quietly fretting over books by Dr. Spock that explained why you were fussy about eating peas. The modern library is vastly more technological, diverse, and active. It isn’t just place for books. It is a place for community!

– Guest Post by Jim Hinton

James Hinton hails from Idaho and is an Army Veteran and lifelong learner.

Librarian, Library

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