Only Child bemoans possible library changes

S. Walter Stewart library branch. Only Child is a frequent visitor here and at other Toronto library branches.

They’re dumping the librarians and replacing them with technologists and educational students and moving the books to storage. At least that’s the thought in one instance and the reality in a couple of others…so far.

Ian Brown, a staff writer at the Globe and Mail, writes eloquently about this in the newspaper’s Focus section, May 21, 2011.  See “Don’t discard the librarians” for full story. I agree with Mr. Brown 100 per cent.

The chief librarian at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario thinks academic libraries should go digital with only information technologists and post-doctoral students as staff. Denver, Colorado library has just shoved 8o per cent of its books into storage. And the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School board in Ontario is closing its school libraries and getting rid of all but four librarians. The books will go into the classrooms.

The sorry part is that it’s not due completely to all the digital changes. The cost factor comes in as does a slur on the nostalgia of visiting the library.

As an only child growing up in Toronto, the library and the books provided me with an escape mechanism from my not-too-happy world. About the time my dad was in the hospital for his second round of battling cancer (this time in the brain), my grade school teacher walked her class from Holy Cross School to the newly built S. Walter Stewart Public Library. I was in heaven with all the books, especially the teen book section and have been an avid library patron since. And after moving back to Toronto, this branch has been one of three or four branches I go to regularly (except when it closed for nearly two years for renovation).

Nostalgia aside, even I realize that there is the digital factor. But these “want-to-ditch-the-librarian advocates” need to get their heads around a few facts:

1. Like Mr. Brown says in his article, if you go into any branch of the Toronto Public Library, for example, it’s busy, not just with people borrowing books, but there are lots of activities for children, teens, adults and older adults – workshops, story-time, author readings, and yes, even computer training. Heck, I got my library workshop teaching gigs from the librarians. And we’re going to rely on information technologists and post-doctoral students to find the information we need? Even with the Internet and Wikipedia, librarians can help you find what you might not be able to find otherwise – whether from your computer, Blackberry or in person at the library. Some people prefer to or have to go into the library to do their research – not everything is digital. Over the past 25 plus years, libraries have evolved from just books to CDs, videos (remember them?), DVDs and are now hubs of the community. Go into your library branch and see what programs they offer. Many are focused on the ethnic groups living in the area. Lots of ESL for those where English is a second language. Try to do that with your computer and a technologist at the other end. That will give you practice in speaking English with others?

2. The Toronto Public library has 99 branches, including a very large reference library. Branches are continually being renovated. Why do this if libraries and librarians are redundant?

2. E-books (and yes libraries “carry” them and you can download them onto your Kindle) have brought in MORE readers to the library – different readers than those who read print books only.

3. You can renew library books, put books on hold on the Internet AND go in to the library to pick them up.

So libraries are combining the old with the new.

And that’s what I think has to continue happening, rather than dumping the old. Think of previous instances of technological change. When TV arrived (back in the grey ages when I was barely kid age) did the radio disappear? Has either the radio or TV disappeared with the Internet? No, they’ve combined to reach the public. Ditto with the music industry. We need to learn from the music industry how to do it right. You can download music, buy CDS, listen to music online (and on the radio), watch performances online (and on TV) and even buy LPs. Some of us remember them, the precursor to those small tapes. Well, many popular musicians now record CDs and LPs. Newspapers and magazines have combined print and online, with the latter a good way to post new updated articles (instead of waiting for the next issue) as well as further information to print articles. I read newspaper and magazine stories in print and online. And yes, I write for both print and online magazines.

The bottom line is not about nostalgia or holding a hard copy of a book in your hands. It’s  giving everyone choices by combining the old with the new, not killing the “old school.”

What do you say? I’d like comments here.



Only Child Writes


1 Comment

Filed under Digital libraries, E-books, E-books vs print books, Librarians, Libraries, Libraries as communities, Libraries going digital, Only child, Technology and libraries

One response to “Only Child bemoans possible library changes

  1. Words We Women Write

    Hi Only Child,
    I get it. Down here in the lower 48, it’s more of the same.
    I love my library, battle for funding and badger friends to donate books and money. I just wrote a post, Library Lust, about my thoughts.
    Keep up the good fight! I’m with ya’ 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s