Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Man, I've got libraries on the brain...

So I went to the gym tonight as part of my "get out of the house and back into exercise" plan. I took my handy, dandy subscription of Runner's World this time instead of the Costa Rica guide books I've taken before. Between articles, I looked up to see a youngish (late 20's/early 30's) guy climb onto a bike a few down from me, and I noticed he had a book. A library book! Of all the places to spot a public library reader, I was surprised to see it there and by that type of guy.

And it made me think. One of the reasons I began to only half-read many of the library blogs I was initially attracted to is that they continue to make the library world sound like it is in some sort of crisis. Certainly, many of our libraries are in a funding crisis. But when did we begin reacting to that crisis by pointing to any news report negatively portraying libraries and insisting that libraries no longer serve our patrons? To those uninformed writers suggesting that they are unfriendly, dirty, unhelpful places to be and that all our users are abandoning us for Barnes and Noble? (Especially when there is no data to support that.) When did we begin writing about every individual library failure as indicative of the whole library community? And then insinuate that that is why any and all referendums fail?

I'll let you in on a secret: people still visit libraries. People still love libraries. But in our effort to convince ourselves that we are still important, we forget that. Until we witness what anyone would've guessed was a meathead, enjoying his library book on the stationary bike at the gym.

And I will point out here that my local library doesn't have a special outreach to local meatheads. Or males. Or 20-30 year olds. I love the staff members I'm in contact with that work there. But, for the most part, they aren't doing anything I don't see other librarians doing. They have been largely the same institution with the same services that they've been the 20 odd years I've visited them. Yet I am always amazed at how busy the library is. That library is used, even by the local college crowd. So maybe we need to work harder at talking about how libraries work, rather than being so quick to judge the very, very rare times they fail.