Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Shameless self-promotion

I recorded a podcast with Richard Wallis from Talis last week, as part of his ongoing series on the future of public libraries. It's available for your listening enjoyment here.

I'm narcissistic enough to listen to it on the way to work, so I'm halfway through it. So far, I've realised two things:

1. I need to speak up. This is probably less of an issue when I'm not being recorded on the phone.
2. I increased the number of Highly Commended runners-up in last year's Young Librarians of the Future to 15. Oops! There are only really five of them, but they're probably three times as nice as normal people.

For the time-poor, or the people who don't want to spend 38 minutes listening to me, I don't think there is a crisis in public libraries. Yes, we're facing challenges and coping with change, but that's been going on for the last 150-odd years of "proper" public library provision in this country. Describing these issues as a crisis is, imho, unhelpful and diminishes the value of the term. Change is not an alien concept to libraries, despite the impression we tend to give (and perpetuate).

Here's a fun fact to illustrate my point: one of my colleagues was tasked with researching the inception of one of our branches. In order to do this, he read through Library Committee minutes from the '20s and '30s. Recurring topics included dwindling issue figures, whether people are interested in reading any more, and what the future of public libraries would be. Does this seem familiar?