From the Spring 2005 Carnegie Reporter, two well written articles.
"Do Libraries Still Matter," is by Dan Akst, journalist and novelist. I loved this paragraph that to me did a wonderful job of summing up the essence of libraries. He's commenting on the Google digitization project that may make millions of books available on the Web.
"Can that really be possible? If so, where exactly does it leave libraries? More important, where does it leave culture? On the one hand, the digital revolution represents ultinmate democratization of knowledge and information, of which [Andrew] Carnegie likely would have approved wholeheartedly. On the other hand, libraries perform an essential function in preserving, organizing and to some extent validating our collective existence. They are traditionally seen as a pillar of democracy. And they provide a place to go--the crucial "third place," other than home and work or school (and as early library advocates liked to point out, other than the saloon as well). Unlike Starbucks, you don't have to buy anything, and their wares are as intoxicating in their way as any at a neighbourhood bar--except they don't impair driving."
From the same issue of the Carnegie Reporter, an article on the future of the news business, "Abandoning the News" by Merrill Brown. As always I read this through a libraryland lens.
"The dramatic shift in how young people access the news raises a question about how democracy and the flow of information will interact in the years ahead. Not only is a large segment of the population moving away from traditional news institutions, but there has also been an explosion of alternative news sources. Some have been assembled by traditional news organizations delivering information in print, on television and on the radio as well as via the Internet and mobile devices. Others include the thousands of blogs created by journalists, activists and citizens at large."
From the IATUL Proceedings 2004, Library Management in Changing Environment, a provocative paper by Henryk Hollender, Warsaw University Library, Poland titled: "Radical Management and the Modern Information World."
"We often say that the library — be it an independent institution or be at an outlet of a far-flung, invisible coalition or corporation — makes a place, which provides a direct interpersonal contact, without which there is no communication. Yes, our added value is very much in library premises that we layout and maintain.[...]So providing the opportunity for people to meet one another and to find information in a mediated way will continue to be important. But people are becoming picky and their occasional need to consult a printed book they can satisfy in a big bookstore. In a bookstore, too,sipping coffee, they can discuss a project with friends. Generally, libraries are uglier and less friendly."
And from today's issue of the Chicago Tribune, "Library opens its door to hip-hop." "Public libraries open windows to the world in fields as diverse as Persian poetry and how to be a carpenter. So why not rap and hip-hop?"
Why not indeed?