Seth Godin on libraries – take heed

Seth Godin has written a brief, but pretty accurate in my view, summation of the future of libraries. I’ll post it in it’s entirity here, but make sure you start reading Seth. I do nearly every day.

The future of the library

What should libraries do to become relevant in the digital age?

They can’t survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don’t want to own (or for reference books we can’t afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That’s not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.

Here’s my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative.

Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.

It’s that final sentence that holds the key to survival of the Library profession, and it’s up to Library professionals to understand this and skill themselves up so that they are up to the challenge. If you’re a Librarian right now and you don’t know what Diigo or Delicious are, or how you use Twitter for real time search, or how to go about trying to find the experts out there who may be able to answer the questions your students are posing, then you better start rethinking what it is you are doing. Libraries are not going to be about the book collection forever; they’re not about that now in my opinion. They are about being a connective space; a space where reading, discussion and discovery take place. The professionals in those spaces need to be the information sherpa enabling new understandings of how we go about finding out what it is we need. It means letting go of knowledge and giving it up to empower others. Don’t see that as a threat, view it as an opportunity. If we don’t, the information sherpas in our school are not going to be emanating from the school library. Instead, they’ll be the educational technologists out there who will rise to the fore. Missed opportunities could mean a lost profession.

Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson and Scott McLeod have all posted responses to Seth’s post. Make sure you visit these for their insights.

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Seth Godin on libraries – take heed

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  2. Jenny,

    I agree with your concept of the library as a connective space!

    I think Godin may have sold us a little short–because aren’t there many libraries doing exactly what you encourage now?

    I responded to his post as well, because I think we are doing this–but clearly we’re not telling our stories well to the public.

    • jennylu

      Yes, Carolyn. You’re right- there are many librarians rethinking their role and doing wonderful things in their school communities. I don’t want my words to sound as criticism- I know how hard it is to get this work done. It’s important though, that the adoption becomes across the board and not just with those who have gone to the effort of understanding the new literacy of our age.

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  5. While Seth may have a point about the need to change and stay relevant, this isn’t an issue specific to libraries. You can read my post at http://digitaldunes.blogspot.com/2010/01/its-2010-lets-make-forecasts-about.html.

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