November 10, 2006

What faculty think of libraries

Or at least one particular faculty member. An interesting post at Slaves of Academe. The post is kind of rambling and disjointed, and mixes up musings about public and academic libraries and their very different missions but it also raises a lot of interesting points:

Still, the library in its edutainment mode fulfills vital social functions, as places where children can be relatively safe, where immigrants and pensioners can check out the material that speaks to their needs, where those without home internet access go to check email or buy something online (or look at porn, when they can), therefore lessening the vaunted digital divide. But will the library eventually lose the books and reading and just become a social centre, even on university campuses? This is an interesting question. It is far too easy to err on the side of entertainment rather than education in the synthesis of 'edutainment.' I do think we lose something when the line between the two becomes too blurry. And this is a shame, for the library as a site of self-formation has been central to my own development as an intellectual, albeit in strange and unconventional ways. The New Library does not really appeal to me. If I wanted to spend time with loud schoolchildren and the odd pensioner, I would go to the Mall. Then again, the digital explosion in library resources means that academic misanthropes such as myself no longer have to actually go to a place and see people whilst pursuing books or articles. Remember photocopying? Ha! Some things are indeed not missed. But the new libraries, whatever their paradigmatic limitations, are packed with people. So obviously, a need is being met. But the old library, the shushing and the schoolmarms and the old maids and the cubicles and the card catalogues, gone oh so long ago, will always be central to my understanding of the role and function of the library, even as seemingly this vision withers away or rather transforms itself into another creature entirely.
Via InsideHigherEd.

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