Librarians Stuck Between A Book & A Hard Pixel

Libraries and librarians are being pulled in seemingly opposite directions. As the Washington Post states, "[a]round the country, libraries are slashing their print collections in favor of e-books, prompting battles between library systems and print purists, including not only the pre-pixel generation but digital natives who represent a sizable portion of the 1.5 billion library visits a year and prefer print for serious reading."

And librarians are feeling the heat. “'We’re caught between two worlds,' said Darrell Batson, director of the Frederick County Public Libraries system. 'But libraries have to evolve or die. We’re probably the classic example of Darwinism.'”

In the process of evolving from print to digital collections, centuries-old library traditions have been abandoned. To library futurists, this is progress. “For a lot of people, libraries represent a certain kind of quiet, a certain kind of place, a certain kind of book in large numbers,' said Matthew Battles, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and co-author of 'Library Beyond the Book.' 'These are beautiful ideas and ideals. But they demand reinterpretation and cultivation from generation to generation.'"

To library purists, this is nonsense. “I get the sense that a lot of people have a feeling that tech has just moved along, that books are these old-fashioned things, that everything is going to be on the Internet, that a Kindle and Google is all you need,” Hays said. “But getting reliable information is a constant challenge today. Libraries help people find the credible information they need.

This is the constant struggle of the library world today. We must evolve or die; but are we evolving in the right way? It's very difficult to be at the helm of organizing the world's collective knowledge while undergoing a paradigm shift in the way that people access information. I just hope that we are successful in our evolution because I can't imagine a world without books and libraries.


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