Do libraries matter anymore?

Do libraries matter anymore?

I came across an interesting post by Everylibrary an organization in the USA, dedicated to building voter support for libraries. Everylibrary is a gold-rated non-profit organization; they help public, school, and college libraries secure new funding.

The post – How to Respond to People Who Don’t Get Libraries talks about how many people do not understand libraries. People often ask rather unusual questions about libraries and this post describes some answers they need.

Questions like – “Do people even go to libraries anymore?” and “Why do you need a master’s degree to be a librarian anyway?”

Some of the questions relate to the US context, but many are valid in India too. People have asked me:

  1. “Do you actually have a course to be a librarian? Do you do it after you pass Class X”? I patiently answer that the minimum qualification is a bachelor’s degree in any subject. And that Library and Information Sciences is a specialized / professional Master’s Degree.
  •  “Are you only doing this library thing, or are you also working somewhere”? This was when I was the Chief Librarian of HELP – a consumer health / patient education library. Again – I had to explain that this was a “more than full time job” – and that I often carried work home
  • “You must be getting to read all those books”? I would say – as much as a Chef gets to eat all those ingredients in his kitchen.
  • “Do you need to teach people how to search? Everyone know how to Google”. I tell them that I started teaching this skill in 1994 and if anything, the need is larger today!

Today I would stress that we need librarians even more than we did during the era of “only print”. We have not stopped needing Lawyers, Professional Accountants, Auditors and Teachers. Librarians are trained not only to manage print collections but the information inside books, journals and more. And if libraries move on to having minimal print collections and lots more of electronic collections, the need for high calibre librarians will be much stronger! Librarians will need to ensure that their users use the collection effectively. They will need to negotiate licences. They will need to evaluate resources which are highly similar… and lots more!

A question emerges – Do we have high calibre librarians in India. The answer is yes. The second answer is that the numbers are dwindling. We can correct this ONLY if we document everything that a librarian CAN do, plan the right levels of salaries and designations for them and attract people to this line of work. It is not something “nice to do”, but is an urgent need for almost all medical and health sciences institutions.

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