How essential is the word library to the profession today? With everything that we talk about in class, the policies I see developing in my library, I fear how nonessential it may become. I have wondered about the idea of “traditional libraries” as a category along with public libraries, academic libraries, special libraries, etc. Perhaps this traditional library will be somewhat of a special library. But in my thought of this traditional library, it will be as the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary limits it:
library / noun. 1. a large organized collection of books for reading or reference, for use by the public or by a specific group; an individual’s collection of books. 2. a building or room containing such a collection of books, films, records, music, etc.; an institution or organization holding such a collection.
Then, a new term will develop that incorporates all the rest of what libraries today are developing into. I think it will probably incorporate some technological/community/social service lingo.
The more I read and think of our talk in class about all these current library issues, with the government laws that have passed (Patriot Act, Copyright, etc), I admit to wondering: “Is this what librarians today really spend their time consumed with?” What’s more, this is what I’d say the majority of society wonders as well. Is the world prepared for information science, or are they too limited to the library. Are we being unrealistic in having such a broad scope? Are we taking on what might be better served from a different outfit? And I return to whether taking on this “extra stuff” mean replacing the existing definition of libraries? Can they co-exist or will one die out? I guess you can’t think about the book part of it, the library part of it without first thinking about the information science part of it (the way people deal with information) because if that is changing from dealing with collections of physical books, then I suppose it follows that the library MUST change with it.
I don’ t know if the word library itself or just the definition is outdated for the changes that are going on. I don’t think it is quite as drastically outdated a word as computer which used to mean “one who computes” — where we no longer consider a person when we think of computing. Though the Shorter OED still lists this definition of computer as #1 and the machine as #2. But if we’re going to hang on to it, we’ll have to give the definition some more variety.