Saturday, December 5, 2015

BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google


Rating: 2 Stars


Well. I am not actually sure where to begin. So, I will first say that I received this as an ARC via NetGalley. Unfortunately it was archived before I could finish it, so I ended up doing so by checking out a hard copy from my wonderful public library (love you, Swanson Branch!) and reading it that way.

It absolutely terrifies me that physical libraries will go the way of the dodo. I can't ever imagine not taking my daughter to the library for story time, for perusing the stacks just to see what I can find to learn about that I don't yet know I want to learn about, for striking up conversations with librarians who become friends (shout out to Cecelia and Doe!) Yet if libraries ever were to go completely digital, that is exactly what would happen. Where is the fun of downloaded a bunch of books to your Kindle? I mean, I do that too, but I love going online to the library's catalog, putting books on hold from my ever-expanding Goodreads to-read list, then watching on-line as slowly but surely the books trickle in within a day or two from branches around the city. I am armed with my 'I Love the Library' bag when Eleanor and I arrive, ready to cram as many into the bag as possible, yet almost always needed one of the nicely offered plastic bags to accommodate those that would not fit, despite my best efforts, and the librarian's too.

So, on to the book itself. I am not actually sure what the author intended with his book. At times it is both an admonishment of the system and imploring librarians to do whatever they can to save their jobs - which means embracing the technology. I guess perhaps because I live in a larger city, I feel like this is already done well? Maybe not, and I am blinded by my own nostalgia and love of the library, which the author has little time for - since it will not save the library as we know it. His opinion and arguments seem to hold less weight with me at least, as he is not actually a librarian, who was somehow put in charge of these Harvard library projects. It rankled some feathers then and kind of rankles mine now in learning about it. It is always easy for someone to criticize from the outside - something he does when taking shots at education and libraries as well with this line:

"In some places, the problem is a lack of financial resources, but in many cases the problems facing education have little to do with money and much to do with management, outlook, and commitment" (page 175).

It was right then and there that, as a teacher, I stopped having any respect for his opinion that I had in the beginning. I won't bother going into detail about the space devoted to Common Core - something everyone should vehemently oppose - as it would only be a tangent here. We need libraries and librarians, but according to the author, they too are to plan, because they don't ask for enough money. Really? Apparently. I think in this case his heart was in the right place, but the statement is so over-simplified; he can't really be so uninformed that he would not now that libraries to ask for funding, that is repeatedly and consistently cut by those holding the purse strings, right?

Libraries offer such a variety of services and resources, they can not be allowed to fade away. I could never read the amount of books that I do if it were not for the library. here is simply no way I could afford it, nor would I have a place to store all the books even if I did have the money to buy them all. Though I suppose if I could afford that many books, I would have my Beast-like library from Beauty and the Beast, so scratch that argument. All I did was read in those summer months as I waited for Eleanor to arrive - and that is thus how I met my first favorite librarian, who became a good friend. There are so many activities going on every day at all dozen or so branches of the Omaha Public Libraries, there is something for everyone. Teen lock-ins, toddler story times, free Internet access, and as always, the faithful and trusty librarians who always seem to be able to help me find what I am looking for. OPL offers an awesome service that allows you to email them your favorite genres and types of books you read and don't read, and then within a day you have a personalized email back listing about 10-15 books you might also be interested in. The first time I tried, the list was so accurate, it contained about seven I had already read. A computer can't try to do that, but given the inaccuracies I find just with the Goodreads recommendations based on some of my shelves, I don't have much faith in that technology.

Overall, I really can't recommend this one very highly. The premise was a good one, but the first few chapters were so repetitive that I was not really interested instead he got to the actual chapter about librarians. The rest of the book after that point was a bit more interesting, but still very dry. If nothing else, the author made me more aware than ever of the battle our public libraries are fighting every day. I am very concerned for the future of libraries and if you love reading and books, and/or care about how knowledge is preserved for future generations, you should be too.

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