As more information moves online, traditional libraries are losing relevance, but librarians are becoming more important than ever. This is according to R. David Lankes, author of The Atlas of New Librarianship(MIT Press, 2011).
Lankes: Let me give you a thought experiment. Imagine if every time you bought an e-book-like device, they charged you 10 bucks more than whatever the cost they were going to charge, and that 10 dollars goes into a big pool. And for your 10 dollars, you can download any book you want from the beginning of time. Would it be a good thing or bad thing for libraries? If you look at libraries as a physical collection of stuff, it’s a horrible thing. They’re out of business.
On the other hand, if you look at libraries’ mission as to increase the knowledge of their communities, it’s a wonderful thing. If your ideal scenario is knowledge building, then the more information that’s available in more modes, the better.
Lankes: There is still a role for libraries to coordinate knowledge. Microfiche is still the most permanent form we have for documents. That said, things are available in digital, and digital has a lot to say.
There are studies about when you look at an object, how separable are the information aspects of it? You wouldn’t buy a house online. You need to walk through the house. There will always be some things where the physical object matters. As a society, as a community, we need to decide which ones these are, and that’s an ongoing conversation.Learn more about the book: http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/