On the verge of extinction?

Since commencing my Masters in Education (Teacher Librarian) back in July, I have been asked by numerous people whether libraries will go the way of many bookshops and virtually cease to exist. For someone starting out on this journey it concerned me because if this was in fact the case, that libraries will soon be a thing of the past then why the hell am I retraining as a librarian. Aren’t I shooting myself in the foot and making it near impossible to get a job!

Setting the scene was one of my first readings, the House of Representatives Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools.  Hmm… this wasn’t looking good, was this truly the career path I was wanting to follow? Then came more readings and discussions with amazing people which this course has enabled. Libraries are alive and well! They have weathered the electronic surge and are now evolving into hubs of learning. Connecting people with resources and technology which will enhance their learning experience. Do I sound like I’m converted?

I am converted! Walking into the QUT libraries has shown me how such an important resource has evolved to continue to support students in their learning. Not only this, you walk into any public library and they are still busy. But who is there borrowing the books; is it the elderly, youth or adults? I suspect that there is a wide range of people visiting the public libraries, including teenagers.

‘There’s just something about the feel and smell of a book’ according to my daughter (Nibbs, R., personal communication, October, 2015). So why is it that my 16 year old has this love of tangible books and I don’t? I’d much prefer to read an electronic version on my kindle or read from my desktop instead of thumbing through a book of research. When I ask my Hubby which he prefers, he acknowledges the lure of the book in the hand, but relishes the advancement in technology that allows him to have a library collection on one device. ‘How cool is that?!’ (Nibbs, G., personal communication, 2014).

Margaret Merga’s (2014) recent research supports what is already apparent in my household. Teenagers, particularly avid readers prefer paper texts over e-readers. Her plea is that further research needs to be conducted before libraries purge their shelves of all physical books. This middle ground seems to be a much more sensible way to go rather than throwing out thousands of books. Weeding at its most extreme. In contrast popular educational author Marc Prensky (2011) strongly supports the move to digital format even suggesting that universities should ban [paper] books.

Whenever anyone has presented me with a strong argument for the latest diet fad, my catch phrase has been ‘Everything in moderation’. I feel this about the move from paper texts to digital. Teachers are known for their hoarding and I do not want to be like this either. The ‘Everything in moderation’ philosophy allows for change to take place, but it does not forget about where you have come from. Libraries and the librarian’s role are changing, they may have been on the protected species list at one stage, but through thoughtful planning and interaction with the changing environment, they are becoming strong again.