Saturday, December 25, 2010

Libraries Continue to Evolve

A scene from The Desk Set.

The 'spruce budworm' question is used as an intro to the article.

Link to December 23 San Jose Mercury News article, "Less shush as digital rush sweeps Conn. libraries".  (Originally published in the 12/13/2010 Waterbury Republican American under the headline "Not your father's library".  Only the first 4 paragraphs are available for free at the RA website.)

Excerpt: Computers have transformed American libraries. And while research librarians have, for the most part, kept their jobs, they have had to learn a whole new set of skills to meet the needs of patrons who can easily find the answer to the budworm question on a computer smaller than an ice cream sandwich.

According to Emmett McSweeney, director of Silas Bronson Library in Waterbury, computers not only have changed the way people do research, they also have changed how people behave in a library. Since they often don't need to pore over tons of books, the need for silence in a library has been eliminated.

"Disposal of indexes and the card catalog has freed up space for people to interact with machines on a personal level," he said. "Instead of people calling up and asking when Babe Ruth died, you can go on the Internet and ask those questions yourself."

Yet, McSweeney said he "wouldn't want everybody believing everything they read on the Internet," so his research librarians are trained in guiding people to reliable Web sites.

"It used to be you had a large reference collection. We don't use a lot of books anymore," Laura McLaughlin, director of Kent Memorial Library in Kent, said. "We do know the good Web sites that provide more up-to-date information than a book that by the time it's published is out of date."
Librarians throughout the region noted that also out of date is the image of the library as a quiet place of contemplation and research, stocked with musty editions of "War and Peace" and scratchy recordings of symphonies

No comments: