Re: [ACAT] What Will Become of the Library?

Posting to Autocat

On 4/25/2014 6:28 PM, MULLEN Allen wrote:

While I agree that finding reliable quality information can be challenging on the Internet, ironically enough, some of that comes from approaching this catalog search/search engine mentality to be able to use it in a similar fashion which is what you seemingly want to do in a verification proces. To take the Ukraine crisis, for instance – using Reddit ( and Twitter (, for example) provides less mediated, more immediate and broader access to information on this than any single news outlet or blogger could ever offer, much less the resources of a library which, other than newspapers (yesterday’s news today), would provide little of currency. The idea here is that if you are interested in being knowledgeable, you have profoundly valuable tools to use that never existed before, whether they are analogous to library tools or not.

You make some really good points here. Perhaps I did not make my primary idea clear however. I completely agree that there are incredible tools today that never existed before, but what I am trying to say is that the process of getting and using those tools, or even knowing about them, has resulted in a situation that is just as complex for the user as it has ever been. As a result, the idea in that article in Slate, where the author was saying that the library would become “maker spaces” and the “third place”, that is fine, but he never mentions that it will remain a place for people to find information. I think people still need just as much help as ever finding information they can trust. This was always the library’s primary task, and I think it still is. Otherwise, people just type in a few words into a “black box” whose workings remain a closely guarded business secret by some of the most powerful corporations in the world, and it spits back the most “relevant” information. How and why, we cannot know.

And many people do not seem to understand that a bit of information they found is not in Google, e.g. when they say “I found it in Google!” but Google is just the index. This is similar to asking students where they found an article, and they would mostly say, “JSTOR” or “Proquest” when they did not understand that JSTOR and Proquest are indexes, and that the information itself is in a specific journal, newspaper, or whatever.

I would teach them what it was, and they would immediately forget.

Again, we understand these things because we are the specialists, but to non-specialists, these same matters are incredibly complex, and boring, to most others.

I just hope that librarians do not agree that libraries should become “third places” etc. at the expense of their primary mission. I think that mission is just as important as it has ever been. There is a lot libraries could and should do in furtherance of this primary mission, and I think that if we built tools that actually improved matters for the public instead of spending our resources chasing unproven speculations (such as RDA and FRBR), it would be appreciated by everyone.