This fall, I joined a group of alumni in a blog series created by my graduate school’s Center for Career and Professional Development (or CCPD, if you don’t have enough time to twist that off of your tongue). While not a lengthy project, it’s been a blast, and I have about two more articles to write for them.
The first was a piece discussing all of the lessons I’d learned while job hunting, moving back and forth (and back and forth) across the country, and just good job seeking advice I’d been given or learned the hard way. From keeping track of job applications to preparing to move, to comparing cost of living and salary calculations, I tried to cover it all. Now, I know that I didn’t cover it all, but it’s the thought that counts (as grandma always said). If you want to read that article, you can click on this link here!
However, this past month, my second piece was published (check it out in its entirety here!) on a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart- libraries. Since the introduction of the personal computer, societies at large have been leaning towards digital formats more and more, until the last few decades or so was dubbed “The Digital Age.” In fact, we’ve gotten so dependent on digital media, technologies, and formats, that over the past ten or so years, the necessity of libraries has been called into question (*wince). As a member of the generation that never knew a time without technology, we’ve often been accused of not appreciating or respecting solid formats- books, vinyls, the tangible, not the terabyte. Obviously, that’s a gross miscalculation, and far from being correct. Printed media has seen a rise in the past 5 years, with the all-hailed ebooks seeing a sharp drop in popularity. In fact, this phenomena has been reported all over the world, and not just in the US. Despite these numbers, I am consistently asked a variant of the same question whenever I mention my profession: “How are libraries going to be kept around since everything is going digital?” The answer is simple: libraries aren’t going anywhere. Libraries have always been a keystone to community organization, education, and activity. Their roll won’t change, only expand.
So, in contrast to my first post, this one ended up being more biographical than educational (although, I could argue that learning ANYTHING about libraries is educational). Growing up, I was more prone to pick up a book than a Barbie, and while I adored the outdoors, it was rare to find me unaccompanied by a book or two (even if it usually reeked havoc on the poor pages eventually). Books caught me from the beginning, and it should have been a warning sign that I would be doomed to being a librarian, but my adolescent mind was set on being a pilot. (or a Naval strategist. or a forensic scientist. or an Egyptologist.) So, despite being nicknamed after Shirley Jones’ character, Marian “Madam Librarian” Marpoo, from The Music Man, at age 4, I doggedly set off after my soaring (literally) dreams, books clutched under my arm like a safety blanket. However, little did I know it, but I wasn’t anywhere near the path that would lead towards a cockpit (or a lab, or a tomb for that matter), but actually strode along in the dead center of the road that led to call numbers and card catalogs.
Naturally, when sorting out post-college career plans, I gravitated towards the library sciences & the associated professions: archivist, curator, museum researcher, librarian. Libraries had always been an integral part of my childhood (see previously mentioned nickname “Madame Librarian”), and books were in my blood. By the age of 16, I’d amassed a library that filled 3 six foot tall by 3 feet wide bookcases (roughly 48 feet of linear storage), and the ONLY thing I was worried about while prepping for college was what to do with the books when I left for school. (Of course, I am once again reunited with my library after being away from home for 6 years, but I digress.)
The true point of this article is to really hammer in, drive home, make the concept stick, etc. the fact that books are forever, technology is fleeting. The printed page is far from dead; it is, in fact, quite virile and thriving. An article from the NY Times (Alter, 2015) written in September of 2015 talked about the drop in e-book sales as print sales rose. Now, whether this is due to the amazing increase in the creation of adult coloring books or not…I cannot say. As an owner of several of said coloring books (the cuss words one is quite fun), I can happily say “wheee!” whilst being careful not to upset the organized piles of colored pencils placed carefully around my sleeping cat (who, in true cat fashion, has taken up the most prominent position on my bed, regardless of the project I am working on).
I will forever be in love with the written word, and while I do adore the newest shiny gadget as much as the next girl, give me the smell of a book over the zing of a hot computer any day. The issue with society waxing eloquent about the fall of print and rise of processors can be summed up in one question: How many copies of Beauty and the Beast (or insert your own album here) do you own? Personally, I have it in four formats: cassette tape, CD, an itunes download on my phone, and a digital remastered version I bought on my computer. Now, take older albums: Guns ‘n Roses, originally released on vinyl, had to go through three different formats in order to be played on iphones today (I’m choosing to forget that ill-fated ‘minidisc’ that came before CDs); or The Beatle’s albums, who survived 8-tracks, vinyls, and a plethora of now outdated and virtually unplayable formats.
We can thank hipsters for reviving the record player and the reemergence of vinyls onto the current music scene.
HOWEVER I WILL CONFESS RIGHT NOW IN ALL CAPS THAT I AM INSANELY JEALOUS OF ALL OF MY FRIENDS WITH RECORD PLAYERS. …i want one…
At the library where I work, we have files on microfilm, microfische, and countless cd-roms that are unusable, their contents lost to us, because of the format on which they were digitized. Digitization is constantly changing, and if you’re in that field, bravo! you will forever have a profession because with every new form of technology, the one after it will render its predecessor completely irrelevant, creating a vicious cycle of “update/digitize/update/digitize” when over on the bookshelf is the original content, still printed and available for anyone anywhere to pick it up and use it at a moment’s notice.
People don’t realize that a library’s existence isn’t to merely provide entertainment to the community. While this is a large part of what we do, it isn’t the only thing, and it isn’t the most important thing. *gasp. did a librarian just say books aren’t the most important?!* Yes, I did, and this is why: Libraries are the community’s heartbeat, nervous system, the backbone; they are everything vital that a healthy community needs. A community without a library is like a body without a mind. The library fosters learning, imagination, innovation, and most importantly: life. Paula Poundstone, actress and comedienne, struck a serious note when saying: “The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy, and community.” When the Digital Age dawned, both academic and political communities began to question the relevance of public libraries. In reality, with economic inequality at an all time high, the need for accessible, free programming has never been stronger.
Studies show that children from poor economic backgrounds develop literacy skills at a slower rate than those from middle or upper class households. Statistics by the Literacy Project Foundation have found a direct correlation between low literacy levels and low income. If we as a society ever hope to increase the quality of life for our current and future generations, we need look no further than the library. Its open doors provide attainable knowledge for children, immigrants, and every-day curious minds alike.
The library is a necessity for those who don’t have access to educational, professional, or research tools. It offers services such as early and adult literacy programs invaluable to ESL households, free internet and computer access for those seeking employment, a warm and quiet environment that can mean life or death for the homeless, after-school activities, and an uplifting environment that fosters a love of learning and reading in youths. These free programs are a library’s best weapons in the battle to better society.
Libraries have transformed themselves to meet the needs of their surrounding communities. They have strengthened their role as the very backbone of civilization and provide much needed refuge and guidance for future generations.strengthening their role as the very backbone of civilization, and providing much needed refuge and guidance for future generations.
THAT is why the library is always going to be necessary, needed, and valued.
There will always be books, there will always be librarians to keep them.
“The Plot Twist.” 22 September 2015. Alter, Alexander. NYTimes. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/23/business/media/the-plot-twist-e-book-sales-slip-and-print-is-far-from-dead.html?_r=0
“E-books slow as Print Sales Rise.” 02 Nobember, 2015. ConnexiconFrance. http://www.connexionfrance.com/printed-book-sales-rise-slow-growth-ebooks-17396-view-article.html
Illiteracy Statistics. Literacy Project Foundation, via National Institute for Literacy. http://literacyprojectfoundation.org/community/statistics/
“Closing the 30 Million-Word Gap.” Bayliss, Sarah. July 9, 2015. School Library Journal. http://www.slj.com/2015/07/standards/early-learning/closing-the-30-million-word-gap-up-front/
“Key to Vocabulary Gap is Quality of Conversation, not Dearth of Words.” Sparks, Sarah. April 21, 2015. Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/04/22/key-to-vocabulary-gap-is-quality-of.html