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Libraries and a Sense of Purpose

Photo by author

Photo by author

The Harvard Business Blog recently posted an article about how Britannica defied the odds. The article states that Britannica is continuing to thrive because it found its purpose (a commitment to excellence) and can stay focused on what’s important.

“Yet this year, defying predictions of its demise, Britannica leapt 19 places in the ranking of Brands in the UK. It charged ahead of Virgin Atlantic, Nike, and Sony. What’s the key to Britannica’s success? Britannica focused on its purpose; this made it possible to think clearly about its advantage.”

This got me thinking. Britannica is still around and succeeding. Wikipedia hasn’t killed it because they have different missions.

The idea of purpose is so powerful. But we often forget our purpose. We go about answering emails and going to meetings and get caught up in our day to day jobs. It’s necessary though to step back and think about why we’re doing all this and remember our purpose. It will reinvigorate our work and keep us focused on what we should be doing.

So what is our purpose? “The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.” That quote was taken from The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians, crafted by some pretty brilliant librarians.

Now I don’t expect people to think to themselves when they’re nuking withdrawn OCLC records, “gee…I’m preserving the integrity of civilization.” But having a sense of purpose in the back of your head is helpful. It doesn’t have to be this one from the Darien Statements either. That one applies to¬† libraries as an institution. Different libraries will have different purposes. But finding that purpose and keeping it in mind when you’re making important decisions is what is going to allow libraries to continue to thrive in this age of ubiquitous information.

What’s your library’s purpose?

Andy Burkhardt

12 Comments

  1. I believe libraries and librarians provide a service to their community. If we get caught up with just books or technology instead of helping people in our community, then we get hung up on the wrong things.

  2. I believe libraries and librarians provide a service to their community. If we get caught up with just books or technology instead of helping people in our community, then we get hung up on the wrong things.

  3. Right on. Our library team just had a planning meeting yesterday and thought about big picture/vision sorts of things. One thing we kept coming back to was the idea of community and relationships. Sure libraries are about resources, but more importantly they’re about people. Thanks for the comment Jeff.

  4. Right on. Our library team just had a planning meeting yesterday and thought about big picture/vision sorts of things. One thing we kept coming back to was the idea of community and relationships. Sure libraries are about resources, but more importantly they’re about people. Thanks for the comment Jeff.

  5. My belief as a librarian of libraries’ purpose is simply to support a democracy by maintaining an educated populace. A democracy cannot properly function if it is full of non-thinking drones. This general principal can be further narrowed to fit your particular library, I believe.

    As for the library I work at, our purpose is to support Evidence-Based Medicine by providing information and research to the doctors, as well as to support the education of new interns, med students, and residents.

  6. My belief as a librarian of libraries’ purpose is simply to support a democracy by maintaining an educated populace. A democracy cannot properly function if it is full of non-thinking drones. This general principal can be further narrowed to fit your particular library, I believe.

    As for the library I work at, our purpose is to support Evidence-Based Medicine by providing information and research to the doctors, as well as to support the education of new interns, med students, and residents.

  7. Along with supporting democracy I think helping to make more curious, questioning citizens is important. These are citizens who don’t simply take what is spoon fed to them. That probably just is a part of an educated populace. Thanks Amanda.

  8. Along with supporting democracy I think helping to make more curious, questioning citizens is important. These are citizens who don’t simply take what is spoon fed to them. That probably just is a part of an educated populace. Thanks Amanda.

  9. Type your comment here.well i believe libraries to be a granary of our past and present future they keep records about us.

  10. Type your comment here.well i believe libraries to be a granary of our past and present future as they keep records about us.

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