Wednesday, July 16, 2008

OCLC Report on Library Support

Library Journal featured an article recently that profiles findings on how libraries might endeavor to generate and sustain new support. The piece, entitled OCLC Report Suggests Ways To Generate New Library Support, synthesizes important findings from a recent study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For those of you who attended ALA in Anaheim last month this may be familiar ground. Read the article, of course, but note that among the key findings are the following points:

*The most committed funding supporters are not the heaviest users
*Many people are unaware of library services
*“Passionate librarians” help generate library funding
*Voters who see the library as 'transformational' as opposed to 'informational' are more likely to favor it
*Increasing support for libraries may not necessarily mean a trade-off with financing other public services

What I find to be a really inspiring and important is the underlying theme that the library space is a dynamic space, increasingly so. It's not moribund, nor does it no longer matter. True, it matters differently. What the report does outline, in addition to challenges, is the impactful areas of rearticulation for librarians and libraries. Communities, users, and individuals are all still tied to libraries...they are just tied to them in ways that reflect the major changes in habits of patrons/community members. Technology and Web 2.0 have profoundly altered all of our lives, perceptions, and expectations, especially when it comes to access and format of information and knowledge resources. However, just because the market has fueled the proliferation of Web 2.0 and its attendant hyperreality it does not stand to reason that agents in the market are filling the curation and instruction role of libraries. Agents of the market have neither the expertise nor the context to do such a thing, plus the logic of capital (while sometimes beneficial) stymies efforts toward curation and instruction.

Bottom line: librarians making space in different ways is what future success for libraries is all about, not librarians ceded way to technology or industry. Expertise and community will continue to matter.

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