What are libraries for?

Hugh McGuire posits some interesting arguments about the way in which libraries should seek to find their future.  In his post What are libraries for? he suggests that we need to know what we are for, rather that what we do.  He further argues that if we assume that we are about providing books and information at near free cost to our communities, then we are about to be (and I would argue, we are already have been) overtaken by the same market forces that have made music and movies virtually free and freely available to all.

McGuire argues that we will find our future in archiving and managing local content for our communities, in fulfilling the ongoing need for community spaces in which our people can interact with information and each other, and in assisting our patrons to grow the skills they need in order to interact with the digital landscape effectively.  If that is what libraries are for, it does indeed point towards changing what we do.

For me, the only thing left to argue is : How long do we have in which to transition our service model, our spaces, the skill set of our staff, and the mindset of our communities? In my view, not long.  We have all heard, and probably argued the idea that ‘perception is reality’.  I fear that if we allow our communities to perceive that we are no longer relevant or useful, then so it will become.

So, what is your library for?

And who, in your community, can articulate what their library is for?

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