Monday, February 22, 2010

Maintaining Expertise

We had a half-day “in service” last Friday … time, among many other things, for my annual “state of the library speech.”

We’re doing well, in major part (on the resources side of things) because ours is a public library district. We’re not dependent on the largess of a cash-strapped municipality.

Looking forward, though, things aren’t nearly as clear.

For one thing, the fate of the printed books is very much undetermined. I tend to think that libraries may actually thrive, though that makes the rather large assumption that the library community – through the use of its own professional discussion boards – will review and evaluate the books and such that will no longer be found with main-stream publishers.

(That’s an effect of both technology and of the continued reliance, by main stream publishing, on blockbusters to create revenue.)

I’m not so optimistic of video/movie collections in an era where downloading a film for home use is likely to cost less than a short drive to the public library.

That said, I think people will continue to come to their public libraries in order to talk to knowledgeable people.

On the “reference side” of things, this means people who know what is going on in the world and in their community. This also means that the people who work at the reference desk should be reading at least one weekly news magazine, plus at least one daily paper and whatever local papers are available … and doing this at work if the time can be spared (and it should be).

Some years ago, I was working at a public library when a patron from a neighboring library walked in, asking us who his local state representative was. He had asked at his own library and was given an answer that he did not think was right.

Which was true. The person he had been told was his representative was serving time for misusing campaign funds.

It had been in all of the papers.

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