In the March 15 issue of Library Journal, Library Science assistant professor Michael Stephens questions whether libraries should be replacing librarians with technology experts who have excellent customer service and instructional skills. This puts me of two minds. One is that we should acknowledge that technology is a big part of the lives of our patrons, and the Library can and should help people learn to use various resources and devices, thereby continuing our mission to educate and promote lifelong learning while at the same time making the Library itself a valuable resource to the community. The change is already here–everyone seems to have a tablet, a phone, and a computer of some sort, and they read their books, talk to their friends, even conduct their business on them–and the Library simply needs to move further towards meeting the needs that arise. The other thought I have is that I don’t want to move entirely away from the things that you might normally associate a ‘Librarian’ with, and if you replace those people with tech-savvy geniuses and helpers, what might you lose? Just last night ICPL had it’s first BYOBook bookclub at the Sanctuary Pub, where a group of people, most of whom had never met before, gathered to talk about a book they enjoyed reading. It was great. It felt refreshing and kind of retro, probably because I do spend a great deal of time at work either on a computer or helping someone with a computer. That ‘tech’ side of me would not have made as good of a host as the ‘at the desk’ or ‘in the stacks’ side of me.
For sure, there is a middle ground. Stephens goes on to state that libraries might begin to hire specialized people who may not be trained librarians, while continuing to hire some librarians who work with programming and projects. But people still ask ‘do we need librarians?’ Do we want them? Do you?
Readers–what do you think? Who do you want to see at your library?