The library has many friends. These friends perform two important functions for us. First, they aid in recruitment. They talk up the library, drag their neighbors along with them, and in general increase our visibility to the community.
Second, they improve the library. Like our library staff, our friends are creative people, with lots of good ideas about new services, or new twists on old ones. Let me give you an example.
I jumped on a slow couple of days to catch up on my professional reading. Because of the way the pile got stacked (pure accident), I ran across two articles, back to back, that said more together than they would have separately.
The first was a piece called "Books, Bytes, and Buildings," published by the Benton Foundation, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. There were many findings about "the future of [public] libraries in the digital age," based on surveys, phone polls, and focus groups. Here are the two findings I'd like to focus on this week:
Like public schools before them, public libraries are coming under increasing scrutiny in a time of social change.
One example of this is the most recent issue of "CQ Researcher," entitled "The Future of Libraries." Each issue of the magazine (published by the Congressional Quarterly) tackles some topic with public policy implications.
The overarching concern of the CQ Researcher was technology. The issues asked, Are America's libraries moving too quickly to adopt technology?
Our culture's idea of service has changed quite a lot over the past half century, and probably not for the better.
I realized this (again) while watching the movie Back to the Future. Marty has just arrived in the 50's, and watches a car pull into the local Texaco station. FOUR young men leap out. One pumps gas, one wipes the windshield, one checks the oil, one checks the pressure of the tires. Our idea of service used to be lavish personal attention.
These days, we define service as "self-service." Cheaper, it is - but meaner, too.