I saw this idea come across the twitterz today — that the library is the people’s university.
Ok, I’ll bite. Let’s take a look at a library as a center of learning for a minute, instead of as a repository for things that are no longer scarce (all kinds of media). What is the job of the library when there is no longer a need for them to be the keepers of scarce media?
Libraries can become places of creation – people come to the library to learn to create things.
Libraries can become places of connection – people come to the library to connect with people, learning resources, their community, the government, the world, the environment.
Libraries become places to express freedom – libraries should be format agnostic, and without DRM. It may be our job to make sure that the tools and formats we recommend are those that promote freedom and flexibility of usage for our patrons.
Libraries are places to experience the world beyond your view, and be challenged by opposing viewpoints – places for safe debate.
Libraries are not about objects, they are about ideas: the sharing, the formation, and the execution of ideas and ideals.
I think that in the last generation we have lost much capacity for independent thought due to the proliferation and widespread adoption of mainstream media (television, internet, mobile, print). Literally, we are amusing ourselves to the point that we don’t care about anything but further amusement. We live in filter bubbles, created by algorithms that predict what we’ll like and show us only that — we are not challenged in our beliefs. Libraries can be a place where people come to be challenged.
I believe libraries should be that place where people are safe to challenge their beliefs, and be free to explore all areas of human knowledge. Such things are vital to our continued survival as a species, and libraries are one of the last bastions for people to engage in (mostly) unfettered exploration.