The end is nigh..?

Sometimes I wonder if I chose the right profession. I love my job and most of the time I feel like I made the right choice. Luckily, I have amazing collegues who really make coming in for work with while (thanks, guys!). However, when I read library journal, like Bibliotekaren, I get frustrated and annoyed at how many “backwards” thinkers there are. Especially in these times of big changes for the library profession.

There are those who day that we need to stay ahead of change and try to ajust to the new situations of e-books and e-journals. The library at Copenhagen Business School(CBS) is a good example here. They said: OK, our patrons need places to study and our printed materials are no longer as in demand as they used to be. So, they tossed out most of the books and made a well-equipped study hall instead.

And then there are those who take the opposite route to the future. One of them seems to be the library director at Lillehammer University College, Sigbjørn Hernes. Now, I’d like to start off by saying that he is an excellent librarian and he knows more about academic prosesses and publishing than any other librarian I know. But I have to say I was disappointed when I read an interview with him in the latest edition of Bibliotekaren. He asked why librarians seem to be so eager at sawing off the branch that they are sitting on? He is talking about libraries like CBS Library. Hernes visited the CBS library and says in the interview that the CBS library is losing space to other parts of the school. When they no longer have books the manageres of the school want to take the library`s rooms and use them for other purposes. This is Hernes` argument: as long as we have the printed materials we have a mandate. As long as we have books, they (the managers) can`t take away our square meters.

True, when we are no longer dealing with physical objects like printed books and journals in the library, the role of the librarian will change. Already, many cataloguers have experienced this change. The time when a librarian could sit in his/her office every day and just handle the registrations are over. (I`m not sorry:-) It`s difficult to predict the future. But one thing is for sure, the library isn`t here to ensure that I have a job. I work here as a librarian as long as the students and staff need me and as long as my expertise is wanted. That is why it doesn`t help anyone to cling to printed materials if they are no longer wanted. Why would we even want to keep our physical location and our square meters if our patrons need them for something else?

I hope (and trust) that my days as a librarian here are not counted. But if/ when the day comes I will try not to put my head in the sand.

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2 thoughts on “The end is nigh..?

  1. Sigbjørn Hernes says:

    Det er hyggelig å få tilbakemelding på ting man har sagt og fint med engasjement i en så viktig forandring som den bibliotekene går gjennom. Men debatten er for viktig til å feilsitere og tillegge hverandre argumenter som det ikke finnes belegg for. Overgangen fra fysisk til elektronisk bibliotektjeneste vil kreve rask omstillingsevne og spørsmålet er om det er plass til bibliotekarprofesjonen med dagens kompetanse. Det er tydelig at bibliotek forsøker å stå på flere ben – web-hotell for elektroniske tidsskrifter, konferansearrangør, evaluering av forskning gjennom bibliometri, institusjonsarkiv for forskningspublikasjoner, bruk av sosiale medier, dokumentalist for forskningsprosjekter og undervisning er noen eksempler på dette. Mitt spørsmål er hvilke veier som vil være mest fruktbare for den kompetansen vi innehar – og eventuelt tilegner oss – samtidig som det er forenlig med basiskunnskapen vi har i profesjonen? Det er dette intervjuet i Bibliotekaren handler om. Men så lenge våre brukere etterspør tjenester som kanskje går ut på dato skal vi gi dem denne tjenesten – og samtidig gi profesjonen tid til en nødvendig omstillingsprosess.

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    • Karen Marie Øvern says:

      I’m so happy that you chose to comment, Sigbjørn. I’m sorry about the late response. Seems gjere is still a need for librarians – I’ve been to busy to comment:-)

      Anyway – if I misunderstood the interview and the comments you made when we last met, I’m truly sorry. Also, I never meant to make you a scapegoat or to put words in your mouth. I merly used your interview as an example of the different views on what is going on in our profession.

      I wholeheartly agree that we should give the users what they want. And so far, many still prefer to read non-fiction on paper. I never meant to say that we should get rid of all printed materials yet, especially because we are still in the early days of e-books and readers that will suit readig for acaenic purposes. My point was simply that I think it unwise to cling to the old ideas on what a library should be and what the librarians should do. My second point was to say that we have to adopt to new times and that I can choose whether or not I still want to be a librarian when I can no longer do what I am used to. I just think that it is my job to adopt to the users. The library I work in is more than the room that contains documents and this library isn’t here to ensure that I have a job. That’s also why I think CBS is a good example of a library that tries to stay ahead of the future. I think if you want an example on how NOT to build a library, it should rather be the library we saw in Lund, than CBS.

      For my part, I can’t wait to see what the future will bring. I think this change could be a fresh start for the library profession – if we can only learn to embrace the possibilities and not fear the changes. Do you agree?

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