Friday, May 29, 2009

What is the Role of a Library?

I've been busy lately and, to my disappointment, I've haven't been keeping up with the blogs I like to follow. So when I finally had a chance to catch up with a bit of reading last night I was delighted to come across the latest post from John Blyberg - The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians.

The statements are the result of a conversation between John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill and Cindi Trainor about the fundamental purpose of libraries and librarians. In this time of increasing pressures on libraries - technological change, shrinking budgets, new competitors - many libraries are examining what they do and where they should be heading into the future. The Darien Statements are therefore a very timely, thought provoking piece of work, around which a great discussion may develop. (judging by the comments on John's blog it's already got a head of steam)

This manifesto of sorts is full of great stuff but three sentences in particular resonated with me:

...The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change...

...Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict.

Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will...

To me, this says that libraries are about more than the individual tasks that we perform. They're not about a bibliographic record or the service at a reference desk. We have a bigger purpose. However, what we need to do to achieve those objective will change regularly (and alway has) if libraries are to remain part of the landscape. No area of library operation has a right to keep doing things 'the way they've always been done'.

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