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2 Aug 2011 / Julie

“the knowledge moved”

knowledge moving in you bloodstream

(c) erinbarker*, on Flickr

the boy and i were discussing something the other day which lead me to my normal rant of content versus container. here it is in case you’ve never heard it before:

When knowledge and stories finally got a container, they were preserved and shared in book form. (prior was via spoken word.) Libraries were the vessel for those book containers. Along the way to present day, the containers changed (disk, cd, dvd, database, journal, magazine, playaway, flash drive, internet, conversations with humans, etc). But during this change over the last umpteen decades, libraries had forgotten to tell people the knowledge moved which is exactly why people still equate libraries with books – except nowadays, books are those frivolous things some people use for entertainment (but who reads nowadays anyways).

[see also: Try again buddy: a note on libraries and books]

The reason libraries do not equal books anymore is because libraries are about knowledge – and the knowledge moved**. And we forgot to send out “we’ve moved” cards. Silly us.

Except we still haven’t sent out those cards (I’m generalizing here to make a point – I know many many libraries, library systems and librarians have sent out those metaphorical cards). We continue to have more book clubs than technology classes, advertise more bestsellers than databases, and hire more shy bookish people than interesting and engaging customer service focused people who love information and people.

We can’t keep complaining that no one loves us, funds us, or cares if we die a slow and lonely death and then continue to sell ourselves and our customers the same old, dusty and worn-out kool-aid.

The kool-aid is no longer hip. We’re all drinking martinis now.

And our martini is made of equal parts of the following:

  • libraries are places where people can learn – we’ve got ridiculously awesome resources and ridiculously awesome people to help teach you how to find what you need (*cough*information literacy) and other amazing things (google+ for example)
  • libraries are places where people can create- we’ve got ridiculously awesome resources for that too!
  • libraries are places where people can grow- Sally grows by falling in love with The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Brian grows by taking a class on photoshop. Marianne grows by joining in on a knitting group.
  • libraries are places where people commune***- we’ve got space, ac/heat, a cafe, and the resources for you to create whatever community you want
  • libraries are places where magic can happen- ’nuff said.

You may have noticed a trend here. Libraries are places where people do stuff. And you better believe i mean “place” in the broadest sense- your building, your website, all your presences around the community. And “people”- that’s a no brainer. Libraries exist for the people who use them. And the best way to engage people? By talking AND listening to them. It’s the only way you’ll know what they want and they’ll know what you’ve got (*cough*databases).

So. Are you drinking the kool-aid or the martinis? Which is your library drinking? And what are you doing about it?

——————–

* thank to Erin for graciously letting me use her photo

** credit goes to the boy for the succinct and awesome phrasing

*** I was told i was using commune in an obsolete manner ala Shakespeare. Well if it was good enough for him, my friends, it’s good enough for you. (commune: to talk over, discuss)

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