Libraries and Librarians are obsolete.

'A step stool in solitude'. Pic: Phil Jones

Or are they?

Last night I was watching an old ‘Twilight Zone’ episode from the early 1960’s called, ‘The Obsolete Man’. The short story takes place in the far distant future where ‘Romney Wordsworth’ who has been deemed ‘obsolete’ by the State, will be “eliminated” meaning, “killed”. His job? Wordsworth’s a librarian. In this future, there are no more books and no more libraries, thus making Wordsworth obsolete. It also seems that there wasn’t much respect for librarian’s in this future either. Romney (played by Burgess Merideth, of Rocky fame – he was Rocky’s trainer) boldy shouts to the court, “I’m a human being!” in which the Chancellor (Judge) replies, “You’re a librarian!” Was this Twilight Zone episode far-fetched or, ahead of its time, by predicting the future?

Personally, I invite our librarians at the college to talk to my classes at the beginning of each semester. My advice is to get to know your librarians and meet with them before your semester starts. Discuss with them the various kinds of research that your students will be needing to find for their assignments. Once they know this, they can then give the students a virtual tour of their website, talk about the services they offer, and point them in the right direction for finding the research they will need to find. I find this overview gives students ‘the big picture’ at the beginning of a semester.

Why do I make time to do this? Well, in my experience, many of today’s students just don’t know how to research properly. If it isn’t on the first page of a ‘Google Search’, many get frustrated and say they “can’t find anything!” Even though we can show the students where to find the information, it is still ultimately up to them to do the digging and find what is relevant for what they need; some do, unfortunately some don’t. There’s the old adage, ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. Well, it’s kind of like that in this case. Regardless, our librarian presentations are excellent, and they do get through to many of the students. In fact, many of them thank me later once they begin working on their assignments.

The reality today is that there is a mountain of information out there, all easily accessible with a click of a mouse. However, you still have to know where to ‘click’. I think this is where the librarian’s true value lies; teaching us where the information is and how to get at it. In my opinion, the library is like a retail business. They have to monitor the trends, react quickly, and change when necessary. As well, they must create ‘added value’ by introducing new, creative and innovative products and services, while not forgetting to deliver good old fashioned customer service. I think many of them need to start learning more about marketing and branding. When is the last time you saw a cool library; a place where you want to hang out? Maybe start taking some lessons from ‘Apple’?

Libraries aren’t going to disappear, they’ll just have to turn into ‘Transformers’, and most likely, will have just as many sequels as the ‘Transformer’ movie franchise will have. Many already are transforming by calling themselves, ‘Learning Resource Centres’ instead of libraries. Sounds good to me.

What do you think? Do you think Librarians are obsolete and libraries will disappear?

You can see a clip of the ‘Obsolete Man’ video on Youtube at:


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