What is a library?

Lorcan 1 min read

I talk about The Librarian below. I quoted from it alongside quotes from Ross Atkinson and Bob Martin in a presentation to the European Conference on Digital Libraries recently. [ppt] From The Librarian:

‘So why have I written this? I can’t show it if it’s going to contradict or undermine my case.

There are a number of reasons. First and foremost, I am a librarian. I live for records and documents.’

From Ross Atkinson:

Because the purpose and result of absorbing information is always finally to produce further information, i.e., to continue the conversation, the function of the library must be understood as one that assists members of the community both in taking particular positions and in recognizing and assessing the positions taken by others. [Contingency and contradiction: The place(s) of the library at the dawn of the new millenniumJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Volume 52, Issue 1, Pages 3-11. Published Online: 2001.]

From Bob Martin:

We often hear it said that libraries (and librarians) select, organize, retrieve, and transmit information or knowledge. That is true. But those are the activities, not the mission, of the library. … the important question is: “To what purpose?” We do not do those things by and for themselves. We do them in order to address an important and continuing need of the society we seek to serve. In short, we do it to support learning. [Libraries and Learners in the Twenty-first Century]

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