What’s the point of librarians?

I’ve been chewing on this question ever since I went to NAEYC PDI and had a mind-blowing, navel-gazing discussion with the folks at Follett Early Learning over some great Thai food.

So, what value DO librarians bring to the world? Books. We do books. But is that what we bring to the world? The organization, care and dissemination of books? Is the value of a librarian based around libraries as physical spaces? Evaluating media? Offering read-to-a-dog programs? Teaching teens how to make duct tape wallets? Free wifi? Storytime?

I put the question to the Little eLit think tank, and we began trying to define what it is that the manifesto of a 21st century librarian should include. Since our normal topics deal with the use of technology with young children, we also considered working on a position statement specifically for children’s librarians about tech & kids (in the same kind of vein as the NAEYC position statement) but it quickly became apparent that A) technology is not separate from anything else we do anymore and B) our tech statement would become obsolete very quickly.

It all comes back to answering this question: What value do we bring to our communities that doesn’t come from anywhere else?

Librarians pride themselves on their roles as stewards of information, and of their dedication to intellectual freedom, authoritative resources and the freedom to read. But what happens when the very definitions of “information,” “reading” and “authoritative” are no longer static, and the mission of providing equal access to all is hampered by the very structure of our organizations? What can libraries do that Parks & Rec, Amazon, iTunes, Goodreads, the History Channel, Smashwords, Starbucks and Reddit can’t?

What’s the point of librarians?


Posted on June 24, 2013, in Libraries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Zsuzsa Palinkas

    Read to a dog?

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