The future of libraries

Here it is, very briefly, that “final unemployed post.” And if you’re of my mind, the title is already an irritant.

As soon as you use “libraries” without qualification, you’re in trouble–whatever you say is likely to be wrong.

Qualify that with “U.S. libraries”? Not much help. Public libraries are different than academic libraries are different than school libraries. And special libraries are just different.

So does it make sense to offer punditry on The Future of U.S. Public Libraries? Less, I think, than you might imagine. (Let’s not even get started on the broad spectrum of academic libraries.)

But I’ll offer three related personal opinions, ones that I believe are backed up by most facts in the field:

  1. Most U.S. public libraries are not “at risk,” as they’re used and supported by the vast majority of the public–including most people in whatever Generation you want to generalize about.
  2. Most U.S. public libraries are rightly regarded as “places of books” that build from books to go far beyond them, and are supported as “places of books” that offer more (including book-related services such as story hours).
  3. The most damaging thing most public libraries could do is to attempt to get rid of the “places of books” core image in favor of–well, of whatever. Building on, expanding, diversifying: Great. Abandoning or trivializing that role: Suicidal.

I’ll let it go at that.

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