Deeper, More Local Knowledge at the Library

January 21, 2008 § Leave a comment

Playing catch-up here as I attempt to make good on one of my new year’s resolutions…

This November article from Anthony Grafton in the New Yorker, Future Reading, Digitization and its Discontents, made some waves in the biblio blogs, mainly for its insights on the transition from print to electronic books. Besides providing a good argument about why p still matters in an e world, Grafton also talks generally about why libraries matter today:

Sit in your local coffee shop, and your laptop can tell you a lot. If you want deeper, more local knowledge, you will have to take the narrower path that leads between the lions and up the stairs. There—as in great libraries around the world—you’ll use all the new sources, the library’s and those it buys from others, all the time.

Libraries can’t afford everything — they must choose the sources, regardless of format, that they provide access to. Libraries make those choices with their communities in mind — libraries stay relevant by providing access to the stuff that is the most locally relevant and most important to the communities they serve. Difficult decisions indeed, but ones that libraries make all the time. And that’s why ya gotta get to the library in order to find that deeper, more local knowledge.

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