Photo: Stockholm public library, Marcus Hansson, CC-BY-2.0 via flickr.com
I’ve always loved libraries. As a young boy, I combed the stacks of my town library, finding great books that took me far beyond the world I knew (40 years later, I’m sharing those same books with my son*). As a no-longer-young academic, I love libraries just as much; but my reasons have changed a bit, and so has my understanding of what a library is.
As a boy, I loved the library because I loved books, and I understood the library as a building full of books. Libraries still have a lot of books, but fewer than they used to, as information has moved online and more square footage is allocated to meeting rooms, study space, computer stations, and so on. It’s not hard to find someone declaring with anguish the death of the library; it’s also not hard to find someone declaring that same death with smug pleasure. For a while I was tempted to join the anguished camp; but instead I’ve come to see the library not as a building full of books, but as a building full of librarians. And if books are wonderful, well, librarians are pretty great too. Continue reading