Libraries must always change

Since working on the vision statement for the LRC in 1993, I have always felt that libraries should be the information heart of the campus. Today's library is not necessarily contained within a building as evidenced by Greene, Roser, and Ruane's The Anywhere Library. As a preparation towards serving on an ad hoc committee at the college, I felt it prudent to bring myself up to speed on the changing role of libraries in the digital age and the implications for the college LRC.

I might not tackle the Association of Research Libraries 92 page scenarios for research libraries in 2030 (although I did download it), but there is an abbreviated article on it in the Chronicle.

I did enjoy the 2003 "What libraries can learn from bookstores" but I realize that few college libraries are prepared to serve coffee and cinnamon to their patrons. Still, thinking in terms of "what if the library had to survive based on the money its customers spent" is an interesting exercise. What might the LRC do to attract patrons, not just students in search of a place to check their social media sites.

To catch up on current events in libraries I am reading the Association of College and Research Libraries blog and an excellent blog by the Philosophy & Religion Librarian at Princeton University. In "Libraries Never Change" Wayne Bivens-Tatum quotes Grace O. Kelley:

The library, even more than other institutions, seems not to have been altogether a true part of the social process. In some way, it has been switched out of the current of social change, occupying a niche or eddy of its own. For a long time it seems to have been but slightly affected by the forces which have been changing the rest of the world. One looks in vain in histories of culture and education for studies of the modern library as an active force which is making its impress upon the social fabric. Due to the nature of its organization and of its service it has been possible for it to continue to function largely on its original indefinite ideals and, in a sense, to let the modern world go by....

Not only our knowledge of the world, but the world itself, keeps changing from day to day. "The inescapable drive of change under the accumulation of ideas and traditions, under the relentless impacts of science and invention," make a fixed regime impossible. "An industrial civilization founded on technology, science, invention, and expanding markets must of necessity change and change rapidly." Any institution which does not change too, adapt itself to the times, and become part of the onward "drive of change," will be pushed aside to be left perhaps for a time to make a harmless life of its own.
Grace Kelley wrote those paragraphs in The Library Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Jan., 1934). No, I did not type that wrong, the year was 1934. The need for libraries to change, to not remain a fixed regime, to adapt to the relentless impacts of science and invention is a permanent state of affairs for libraries. 

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