There have been a lot of good posts and resources that I’ve been looking at recently about libraries and librarians that have got me thinking much more deeply about librarianship.
Aaron Schmidt talked about libraries without content.
Andy Woodworth explored the value of gaming in libraries and if it’s crucial to our mission.
Stephen Bell discussed how experiences give us more happiness than things.
Dave Lankes examined The Librarian Militant, The Librarian Triumphant.
Therefore I want to try something different on this blog for a little while in addition to regular posts, which I’m calling the Library Thinker Series. Each week I’m going to post a new question here. These are going to be pretty big questions (you could probably write a book on some of them). I’ll attempt a short, incomplete answer, but I’d also really like your attempt at answering it too. I know I don’t have all the answers and I would really like to see how other people approach these questions. I think it would be a fun exercise in exploring our profession where we might come to some insights together (sorry, I majored in philosophy. I have a warped sense of fun). So, the first question is:
What is a library?
This question came to me when Aaron Schmidt was talking about the day when perhaps libraries would have no content and when Andy Woodworth and commentators discussed if gaming is something libraries should be focusing on. If we can figure out what a library is, then maybe we can understand what a library is not. This would make it easier to answer questions like “should people be gaming in libraries,” or “do we need content to have a library?”
What actually is a library? So like any good researcher (or at least like most of the undergrads at my institution), I typed the full question into Google to see what the internet had to say about it. One of the first hits was of course Wikipedia. Here’s their definition:
“A library is a collection of sources, resources, and services, and the structure in which it is housed; it is organized for use and maintained by a public body, an institution, or a private individual.”
I notice three key things in this definition. First a library is a collection. This could be a collection of things or services. Second, it exists within an environment or structure. Third, it has people who organize and maintain the collection and the space.
For me this works as a definition. Collection, Environment, and People. If you do not have one of those things you do not have a library. A stack of books does not a library make. Under this definition I think Schmidt’s content-less library still holds up if there are still services that are being provided.
Is this definition too broad? What am I missing?