How the Heck Are Libraries Still in Business?

By Andrew Beman-Cavallaro

I’m sure you have heard these comments before. “How the heck are libraries still in business?” “Everything is online.” “I can download anything I want to a tablet or smartphone. “ “I can get hundreds of books on my eReader. “ “I can connect with anyone across the globe. “ Valid points. Before I respond please let me say “Thank You” to the supporters of libraries who like them because they like the feel of books, the wood features of the old buildings, and card catalogs. Now let me also say to the same people: “you are not helping.”

Libraries are locations of the catalysts of social change whether physically or through their massive, (and it is massive), online presence. How? By being resources of instruction and service rather than merely the archives of material and halls of silence for which they are frequently mistaken. It is not enough to merely have access to information, it is the Information Age for goodness’ sake, everyone should be able to do that. What libraries provide is a resource to learn how to become Information Literate: how to judge the credibility of a source, how to seek out independently verified results, how to think critically, how to question what others take for granted, how to tell the difference between populist and evidence-based material, how to find opposing views on the same subject, how to best utilize information once you have it, and a venue to learn through open discussion. The information does not belong to the library staff; it belongs to YOU.

The goal of librarians and their work is to teach, (in-person and remotely), how to place the power of information access and evaluation in the hands of the population. Not everyone knows how to do this on their own. The Internet is not free and reliable technology is not cheap so it is not a given that all have much needed access to most of the world’s information in the first place. It also does no good to get 200,000 Google results if a person does not know how to narrow them down properly. That is like drinking from a fire hose. Using Amazon, Facebook, or texting does not help anyone if an individual cannot also find government forms, search for jobs, find scholarships, locate reputable doctors, seek unemployment aid, and overall…think for themselves!

Do not sell out your thought process for sheer amount of information. There will always be a new person to help, a new generation to teach, and more information and ideas to explore. Any question, anytime. Get in touch with your closest library now and check THEM out.

Andrew Beman-Cavallaro is Associate Director of Libraries at Pasco-Hernando State College, Spring Hill Campus, Florida.