what is a library?

When libraries were first set up information was scarce – printed books were expensive and rare. Libraries were often created by philanthropists for the public good, or by governments to help the general population find out about stuff. Librarians were there to help make knowledge available to everyone by enabling sharing.

Now, with the explosion of the internet, “everything is online” and the amount of information available to all those with internet access is vast. This means that libraries and librarians are now more about helping people find the right piece of information, and being able to discriminate between what’s available, rather than controlling who can access what when.

Libraries are still gateways to trusted quality information, but the relationships between them and the information available is being transformed. What hasn’t changed to reflect this is the attitudes of those who don’t use them – libraries are still seen as being about books.

I don’t think the internet is the death knell of libraries – there will continue to be a role for specialists who can guide others through the vast swathes of information available to what they need. They may not continue to be called libraries, and not all of the current libraries will survive, but this service will continue in one form or another.The danger is more that if this isn’t seen to be what libraries of the future are about then someone else will start to offer this service.


  1. I had a good chat with my Aunt in Canada (retired lecturer from McGill) last week. She still visits the library to borrow books every week – but doesn’t use the other resources on offer – she has little need since she now has an IPAD… but you are right, that it seems only library users seem to have an idea of the extraordinary range of services on offer now!

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