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24 Jan 2011 / Julie

try again, buddy. a note on libraries and books

is the ad i found at the bottom of the ALA JobLIST Direct email last week.

as someone who agrees with the statement “today’s libraries are more than books” i was excited to see what the ad might be for. until i realized it was an ad for Recorded Books, an audiobooks publisher.

The word book traditionally refers to “physical objects consisting of a number of pages bound together” but then isn’t the phrase “audio book” a misnomer? if we go off the definition above, then an audio book conjures more an image of a physical, bound item with lips than a cd, cassette or electronic item that has the audio of a book read aloud. or maybe that’s just me.

so what’s my real issue with this ad? it’s the fact that libraries ARE more than books these days (and if yours isn’t, let’s get with the program, shall we?). libraries are about information sharing/learning, content creation, customer service excellence and community engagement. the physical items in a library are irrelevant. it’s what’s inside them that counts. (hence my annoyance with last month’s American Libraries cover [pic])

it is the words and wisdom conveyed on paper bound with glue; the research and ideas shown in black and white in a database’s journal; the power and feeling in a well-read audio book- all of these things are important, but it’s the message, not the medium that is key.

take a look:

[via Librarian by Day and the MLXexperience]

it’s what we convey, not how we convey it that’s the meat and potatoes.

Let’s take another example. You meet someone for the first time and see that they are well dressed and well spoken. the medium is the outfit, clean and pressed, and the words, well thought-out and spoken, but the message you get might be that this person is put together, important, confident, – any number of things. This might be a bit abstract, but what i’m trying to say is that we interpret the mediums into a message. And i might interpret the same mediums into a whole different message based on my experiences being different than yours. mostly though, common human experience (a whole other conversation, mind you) leads most of us to mostly the same message. Like with the orange mug.

which is why libraries are more than the physical (and electronic) items they give people access to. libraries are the people, the creation, the engagement, the learning. that’s the stuff that make libraries so priceless. Can a library survive without physical (or electronic) items? Abso-freakin-lutely. Librarians are info finders and relationship builders (or, they should be). Customers are info processors and creators of new things. Together, with or without stuff we can continue the mission of libraries. Sure, holding the bestseller’s book club might be difficult, but let’s be serious, it’s the engagement and conversations amongst people with a common interest that’s really of value.

so back to my gripe about this advert. i think Recorded Books could have done a better job promoting their products. I feel like saying “more than books” when “books” is in your company’s name is kind of shooting yourself in the foot. or missing the point of your own ad.

besides, it’s just plain cruel to see a vendor finally say something i agree with and then find out its only about audiobooks. don’t get me wrong- i live on a steady drip of the things with my 2+ hour-a-day commute (round trip, let’s not get crazy) but i was hoping for something a little more mind-blowing.

next time.

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