I’m really happy about the way they’ve covered a wide range of the different services available through public libraries, because a lot of the reporting around it recently has continued to peddle the old “libraries are just about books” line, which is fine to an extent, but isn’t accurate and is pretty simplistic and reductive.
Anyhow, here’s the bit that’s got me in it 😉
According to Lauren Smith, passionate Doncaster librarian and member of the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign group, ‘Libraries are more relevant and innovative than ever before. Especially in times of recession, libraries can be like sanctuaries where people can come and access information for free.’ Lauren emphasises that despite vast amounts of information being available online, there are materials such as historical documents and reference books that are only available at libraries. Indeed, a recent innovation in libraries is to have expensive software and subscription databases available free to members, including online databases such as family genealogy, NewsUK, and the Oxford/Grove online art and music encyclopedias.
Another innovation in libraries is their intention to reach out to those who can’t get to a library or don’t have the time. ‘Soon it may well be possible for members to download e-books from the library website. It will also be possible to download audiobooks straight to your iPod,’ says Lauren.
The advent of self-checkout points is a development that has freed librarians to spend more time engaging with the public and assisting with in-depth research. But this role is forgotten as councils look to the technology as an excuse to get rid of librarians altogether.
‘It is a worry that professional librarians are being phased out,’ says Lauren. ‘It is essential that libraries are run by qualified staff with the right ethical grounding to provide a wide and balanced variety of information to the public. If libraries are run solely by volunteers, or by private companies, the information provided and the training courses offered may become skewed and biased.’
I really wish more reporters would mention the social value of libraries and the importance of equity of access, as well as the wide variety of information and leisure resources available, all of which are totally relevant and valid in a public library service. It was lovely to see how much effort had been put into this piece, and I’m really grateful to Donald for listening so intently as I rambled down the phone to him about all the things that libraries do and why it’s vital they do them properly.