I read two really good posts over the weekend on the subject of public libraries and what they do. The first was published on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog in October, but it passed me by at the time. In Public libraries play a central role in providing access to data and ensuring the freedom of digital knowledge, Ben Lee argues that “not only do libraries provide free access to data, but they do so in an environment which is trustworthy and neutral, geared to learning. Access to digital technology increasingly overlaps with access to opportunity and it is important to recognise the role public libraries already play (and have always played) in keeping the gate to knowledge open.”
On A medley of extemporanea, Dawn Finch declares: Libraries – time to get political. She outlines a day in an imaginary library and the sort of questions staff might be expected to answer. Just one example: “A young mother needs helps filling in the forms to apply for school for her children because she has no one at home to help her. She goes to the library and the librarian helps her to find the forms online and fill them in so that her child can go to school.” This, as with most of her examples, does not (necessarily) involve the borrowing of books.
So both posts, in their different ways, make the point that libraries are about more than books – they might have been in the days when information was always on paper, but not any more. Do our political representatives know this? Their haste, in many cases, to close libraries and replace trained staff with volunteers suggest not. However – there’s an election coming! They now want your votes, and those nice people at CILIPS have set up a new resource called Election Watch. I suggest you read all three resources and keep them close by you for when your candidates come to call. I know I shall.