Saturday, June 12, 2010

Libraries really run themselves, don't they?

During the nightmare in Pasadena, as the district opts to close all school libraries (and doesn't seem to be backing down), one comment on the Pasadena Star-News web site simply suggested that the kids shelve the books and the library...well, libraries are really systems run on autopilot anyway, right? 

I'm always flabbergasted whenever someone throws out the idea that libraries basically run themselves. Aside from being totally insulting to librarians, it's a downright ridiculous suggestion. 

There's a reason why my MLIS program is the most difficult educational program that I've ever been in (and I've been in many) -- libraries are serious business, and they need trained professionals running them.

This kind of inane ignorance about libraries, though, is what got us to this place, where vital public library systems will close their doors two days a week. (Click here for the Los Angeles Times story on the L.A. public library closures.)

Here's a voice of reason on the topic. Andrew Motion, former poet laureate of Britain, has denounced this "let the library run itself" idea (well, let the library be run by volunteers), which is spreading like wildfire. Quite appropriately, Motion frames this as an issue of equity.

Motion says, "Whether we are traditionalists about libraries or not, and I consider myself not, we ought to be able to accept that libraries are very important pieces of machinery for delivering to human beings what they need – information, pleasure, instruction, enlightenment, new direction in life. They're also joining up with services which help people with difficulty reading, and working with people learning English – to put all that in danger is exactly the wrong thing to do," he said.

Here's the rest of the story, from The Guardian.

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