Haters Gonna Hate?

One of the most important parts of library advocacy at the moment seems to be setting the record straight; explaining to people where they’ve got the wrong impression of libraries (be that because they’ve had a bad and unrepresentative experience and/or because they haven’t used a library in many years).

It happens an awful lot on news articles talking about library cuts. You can guarantee that a number of naysayers will comment with something from the List of Predictable Anti-Library Comments (catchy, I know):

These points are all wrong and/or inaccurate and have all been challenged very well by librarians, library staff and/or members of the public. It’s not exhaustive, it’s a work in progress. I might make a table of comments and responses to cut and paste from the next time they come up…

It’s been suggested that we should just ignore the naysayers and leave them to their ignorance. This is not an option! It’s really tiring to argue against all the misconceptions and misunderstandings of public libraries, but we have to. And it’s worth it. In a Times article back in August, Frank Skinner wrote about how, in his (admittedly) limited experience, libraries are out of date and awful. This caused uproar in the library community. Many people wrote to challenge his views and explain why he was wrong. One or more of them even wrote to him. And do you know, it worked! Frank changed his mind when he went to a library and saw what a lot of them are actually like these days. It might not work all the time, because some people have made their minds up and that’s it, but it’s our duty to set the record straight whenever we can. Voices for the Library aim to debunk the myths about libraries, but we can’t be everywhere all the time! Please do speak up for your services when you hear someone propagating inaccuracies. Haters ain’t necessarily gonna hate forever, and you never know, once they’re better informed, they might become great advocates of libraries themselves.

Update:  I’ll keep linking to things as I come across them.

 

One of the most important parts of library advocacy at the moment is setting the record straight; explaining to people where they’ve got the wrong impression of libraries (be that because they’ve had a bad and unrepresentative experience and/or because they haven’t used a library in many years).

It happens an awful lot on news articles talking about library cuts. You can guarantee that a number of naysayers will comment with something from the List of Predictable Anti-Library Comments (catchy, I know):

· Libraries are an irrelevant anachronism in the digital age (here and here, too)

· Cuts have to be made somewhere – libraries are not a priority and it’s better than cutting other services – if you don’t have any other suggestions, you can’t oppose library cuts (here, here, here, yawn and here too)

· Library usage is declining

· Everything’s available online now or if it isn’t, it should be

· People should use bookshops instead

· Charity shops are an adequate replacement for libraries

· Google is better than librarians/libraries

· You don’t need librarians

· Everybody has the internet these days (and that’s sufficient)

· Universities and schools have libraries, use those instead (here, too)

· I’m all right, Jack

· I don’t know anyone who uses a library or my library’s quiet when I go in it, therefore nobody uses libraries

· I didn’t like my library the last time I used it (donkeys years ago) so it must be worse now

· Libraries don’t have books in them anymore and are just cyber-cafés with crèches

· Librarians hate books and it’s all their fault

· Putting computers in libraries has killed them

· Librarians are just campaigning to save their jobs

· People stopped using libraries because they didn’t need them anymore

· Poor and/or working class people don’t read, aren’t deserving and aren’t entitled to an education so we should close libraries

These points are all wrong and/or inaccurate and have all been challenged very well by librarians, library staff and/or members of the public. It’s not exhaustive, it’s a work in progress. I might make a table of comments and responses to cut and paste from the next time they come up…

It’s been suggested that we should just ignore the naysayers and leave them to their ignorance. This is not an option! It’s really tiring to argue against all the misconceptions and misunderstandings of public libraries, but we have to. And it’s worth it. In a Times article back in August, Frank Skinner wrote about how, in his (admittedly) limited experience, libraries are out of date and awful. This caused uproar in the library community. Many people wrote to challenge his views and explain why he was wrong. One or more of them even wrote to him. And do you know, it worked! Frank changed his mind when he went to a library and saw what a lot of them are actually like these days.

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6 thoughts on “Haters Gonna Hate?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Haters Gonna Hate? « Walk You Home -- Topsy.com

  2. Library Web

    The brief (not a lot of time am afraid) dialogue I had with the Horny Media debacle over the weekend went something as follows:

    Me: Libraries would very much like to put books on the web and create the Internet library of the future, but publishers are not allowing libraries to loan their e-books on the web.

    @HorneyMedia: Well libraries close then.

    I must admit I’ve wondered what is going to happen here in the future, there is even a question as to whether Overdrive will be able to continue in the UK… http://bit.ly/h1VZPX There is an opportunity to get the public putting some weight behind libraries here to get publishers to start playing ball with the libraries, but why cannot the libraries get this together by explaining to the public what the libraries need them to do?

    Personally I’d like to see libraries do some work in the following area: I myself rarely use the public library because of crime and harassment in my community, how many other non-users are not users for this reason? (I find it likewise difficult to read in my own home because of this. If libraries don’t take an interest in the community they serve, then is it a wonder people lose interest in the libraries?)

    I sometimes wonder as well how many people do not actually trust librarians (i.e., the qualified ones, higher up, maintaining an aloofness with the public), e.g.:

    “The role of our library community around the data should not be that we are the only ones privileged to touch the data, but that we play some coordinating management role with a world of very interested users contributing effort to the enterprise.”
    John Wilkin On: “Open Bibliographic Data: How Should the E cosystem Work?”
    http://web.resourceshelf.com/go/resourceblog/62237

    I could cite some absolutely damning criticism of the libraries of the variety that you will hear and not see written down, the above really is only trying to make sense of it. (How many people are secretly glad the libraries and librarians are currently not very happy as a consequence?)

    Is there an element that librarians have brought things upon themselves? There is a feeling that while libraries were once of value to provide something for people to read after having learnt to read at school, that this is not important nowadays with inexpensive books and the Internet. Librarians have failed to recognise this issue of our times and respond to it with the analysis that the public at this point now need – why?

    I’ve argued in the past for a small but academic/non-political strategic body for public libraries, one that would have a direct line to and be answerable to the publc, maintaining an ongoing assessment of the value of the public libraries to society. I say ongoing because we are on a learning curve here (the value of the libraries, Librarianship is a young science), and the context of the libraries is changing very quickly at the moment also. Roy Clare (no less) personally shot it down himself, though it most certainly gained support from activists on the ground in our communities.

    All the council depts are currently being cut[1]. Libraries could though emerge stronger and better if they were to address the issues. The cuts are not optional at this point, but libraries could take the opportunity of change and rebuild their ‘fortes’[2], for the sake of the profession, and society.

    Footnotes:

    [1] Is it the case that maintaining other service levels is more important than the libraries, hence the libraries are taking a larger percentage cut than other services? This is the only reason that I can see this could possibly be justified. A close watch needs to be kept here.
    [2] I tweeted this weekend that while the service was de-layering, if libraries were to at the same time up skill the frontline to put qualified (as they used to be) community manager/librarians back on the frontline of community libraries (a textbook flat organisation, with a higher skilled frontline), then that would be an example of building up the libraries’ fortes in the face of cuts – which would be welcomed both by the public and profession I would guess.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: The Case for the Great Good Place, Ctd. « Agnostic, Maybe

  4. Pingback: The Value of Public Libraries (and the measurement and demonstration thereof) « Walk You Home

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