Seth Called Us Out On Our Bullshit And Folks Got Mad

Ok, yeah, I was going to just ignore this whole thing, but then a couple of other blog posts from librarians kinda got to me (Librarians I love and respect BTW). So, I’m going to throw my two cents at this whole debate since just about every other person in the library world has. And, I’m going to say this – Seth is Exactly Right!

The thing is that librarians are debating about how Seth perceives the library. Some librarians are making this statement;

“the article reinforces Godin’s belief in the stereotype of librarian as clerk, declaring that films are “a mere sideline that most librarians resented anyway”, exhorting us to stop “defending library as warehouse”, and arguing that”what we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper” – absolutely right Mr. Godin, but then this ceased to define a librarian many, many moons ago.”

Or this one;

“Godin then addresses access to information:

‘Wikipedia and the huge databanks of information have basically eliminated the library as the best resource for anyone doing amateur research (grade school, middle school, even undergrad). Is there any doubt that online resources will get better and cheaper as the years go by? Kids don’t schlep to the library to use an out of date encyclopedia to do a report on FDR.’

He’s right, they don’t schlep to the library to use an out-of-date encyclopedia. They schlep to the library to use a current, up-to-date online one, and databases to write that report on FDR. Online encyclopedias and databases that the library pays for.”

The problem is that the real root of this article, and the aspects these good folks are arguing against, are problems of perception. Of course, we all know that the library isn’t just a “warehouse of books” and we know some folks use our databases, and we all know that kids shouldn’t use Wikipedia. But unfortunately Seth’s statements are exactly what a HUGE percentage of the population believes. This is our fault. This is the brand that generations of librarians have been reinforcing for years. In fact, some of my favorite library marketing has been about the book brand of libraries. Seth is merely calling us out for not doing our jobs to ensure that we are adequately re-branding libraries.

In this sense I think Godin hit it just right. Seth is pointing out what a library is in the minds of the average public non-user. Maybe that’s what’s ruffling some feathers? Remember that this guy isn’t a librarian at all. He is library user and an advocate for libraries. He is exactly the kind of person who should be telling us what a library is. He is Joe Public and he has very Joe Public perceptions of the library.

What we need to do is listen to him, listen to what he says a library is, then talk to the public and see what they perceive the library to be. I bet you’ll get a lot of the same answers. I know that I get these answers when I talk to non-library users. When I talk to people who haven’t been to a library for a couple of years, I usually get the response “it’s a shame people don’t need libraries anymore, all the ebooks and Wikipedia have taken its place. I used to love the library when I was kid.”

So, to all the librarians who are arguing with Seth (who probably won’t read your blog anyway), I’m going to tell you to do something more productive and market your libraries better. Spend some kind of money on library marketing. I mean real marketing that sends the message about what libraries are in the 21st century. Because a lot of us are what Seth says a library should be. We’re already doing a lot of the things he says we should be doing. We just haven’t told anyone yet, and that’s our fault. Thanks for pointing that out Seth, kuddos to you good sir.

If you want to win some money by doing this marketing and telling folks what a modern library is…

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