Thursday, September 18, 2014

Librarians Talk Future of Libraries on Reddit

In library school, a professor shared with the class a conversation he had with his son. "Dad," his son said, "here's why we no longer need libraries. G-O-O-G-L-E."

Many believe that with the rise of Google and increasing accessibility to digital sources of information, libraries and librarians are becoming obsolete. Indeed, this belief is common enough that it was addressed during a Reddit AMA chat with four library and information professionals.

Titled "We are librarians and information professionals interested in scholarly communication. Want to know more about the future of libraries and digital information? Ask us anything!," the Reddit chat featured Rick Anderson, associate dean for scholarly resources and collections at the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library; Amy Buckland, e-scholarship, e-publishing, and digitization coordinator at McGill University Library; Michael Levine-Clark, associate dean for scholarly communication and collections services at the University of Denver Libraries; and Catherine Mitchell, director of the eScholarship Publishing Group at the California Digital Library.

These library and information professionals were inevitably asked: "With digital information, why do we still need libraries?" Buckland replied, "Because libraries aren't just book warehouses. Librarians can help you find the right digital information from all the tons of junk that's out there. We also work to ensure access to information for our communities, and figure out ways to make sure that you can get to the quality stuff that you want." In response to Buckland's answer, Reddit user trashaccount12345 asked, "Doesn't Google Scholar do that? I've never had a librarian help much more than typing search terms into a database query for me." Fellow Redditer Hanmertime addressed trashaccount12345's question:

"I would say you're not necessarily going to get access to everything that's out there through Google Scholar. Libraries can give you access to certain databases they subscribe to, or work with you through ILL or some other method to get your hands on an article that you may not otherwise have access to. Also, don't forget about the digital divide. There seems to be this attitude more and more lately of, 'I have access to what I need, so everyone must have access to what they need, too.' Lots of people - regardless of what's available online - are still dependent on libraries for help. And to go even further, it's not as though librarians are only helping people find research information. They are a community hub. They could be giving someone directions to somewhere local, offering tech help to someone else, helping a high school student figure out how to apply to colleges, and so on."

Good answer, Hanmertime! I would like to add that today's libraries are also art galleries, makerspacescrafts centers, punk and zine archives, and much more.

In the same chat, the library and information professionals also talked about CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act), strategies used for data loss prevention, ILL (interlibrary loan) as it pertains to e-books and digital subscriptions, government budget cuts' effect on libraries, the value of an MLS (Master of Library Science) degree, and how well today's library schools are preparing students for the real world of library work. For the professionals' opinions on these topics and more, see the complete Reddit AMA chat at THIS LINK.

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