Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Authenticity: An Olympian Struggle

I've been enjoying the kerfuffle over the lack of authenticity in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing. With the CGI-generated fireworks, lip synching cherubs, and, of course, chemically enhanced athletes, my wife, the long-suffering Joyce, has taken to referring to this as the Milli Vanilli Olympics.

But I think there's a pretty important lesson for libraries in this, too. We need to be careful to protect our authenticity. To quote that eminent maritime philosopher Popeye, "I yam what I yam." When we try to be something we aren't, we destroy the authenticity that people treasure in libraries. This is not to say we should avoid building services that meet current and future needs, whether they be gaming, embedded librarians, cooperatively generated content, or joint use facilities. But we need to do this while being constantly aware of, and actively drawing upon, our core principles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I could not agree more. Standing with a bunch of moms at the playground the other day, we all started to wax enthusiastic about our fantastic local library. Why? Because the library is a beautiful space in which to enjoy wonderful books. Period. (Well, they do have a nice coffeeshop and you can bring the coffee in the library, but that just enhances the books!)