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Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity…

Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change

by Walt Crawford

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Most of this book discusses the original disruption of Library 2.0 to the library profession. It can be useful for a bit of that history. Today's use is just as relevant as libraries still struggle with what services to offer their patrons. The book itself should be read in that context with the priority of libraries to serve their community instead of providing services that impress other librarians. Crawford also takes issue with many librarians that feel library services will be irrelevant if they follow the latest trend.

"I'm learning to ignore extremist blog posts and articles, those that call for revolution or suggest that libraries are doomed if librarians don't adopt lots of new ideas right away, those that appear more interested in confrontation than accommodation. From my perspective, the overall focus on the many related conversations within the library field has shifted toward more balanced approaches." p. 15

Sometimes you need to pay attention to pushback in order to find a balance between continuity and change. Sometimes patrons (and library staff members) are pushing back for good reasons. Sometimes pushback requires more (and more honest) communication. Sometimes, all you can do is ignore it.

Here's what I don't regard as useful: Attacking other librarians as mindless obstacles to needed change, whether as "dinosaurs" or "old school librarians" or Luddites or whatever. p. 114

I really do not believe that shaking fingers at particular library practices, from a position of general ignorance about the particular issues and community problems within that library, will help make libraries better and librarians more welcoming of change. p. 130

Crawford also discusses the concept of taking patron control, a major cornerstone of the Library 2.0 movement, and taking it too far.

"The patron is always part of the library community; that doesn't mean they always behave appropriately, and it certainly doesn't make any patron the boss of the library community." p. 28

Crawford also praises the 2.0 community for moving the library conversation forward. Whereas, he ignores extremist posts that claim irrelevancy if the library doesn't do what the blogger says, but also that the library conversation and service should be assessed and moved forward. There is no excuse to ignore what is going on around us as librarians.

"It should not be necessary for every library person in every library to be equally involved--or, in larger institutions, involved at all--in this particular conversation.

Those who use time and energy as a continuous excuse for learning nothing and rejecting new ideas should realize that they're consigning themselves to roles that will become less and less interesting and viable over time. They are, in effect, committing slow professional suicide.

You don't have time and energy to do everything, to explore every new possibility. Nobody does. But you must find time to do something--to keep learning enough to contribute to ongoing change and help see that changes make sense. p." 82

Crawford comes to an understanding about balance. Let's get away from extremism and start focusing on the library's community.

"(from Iris Jastram) Instead, librarians should look at the services kids use and see what's also useful for patrons and librarians in general and remember that "there are lots and lots of kids who are not tech savy," and that it might make sense to spend more conference time "learning from each other about new processes, best practices, and yes, even some of my beloved theoretical underpinnings." p. 88

Overall, the book is a quick read and goes over library services and issues without providing specific examples. It is a book that is philosophic in nature and based on theory. (Theory that is quite exact however. Case in point, the issue about using the 80/20 rule is exactly how many libraries purchase for collection development.

Crawford's arguments come home to roost on the idea of a Library 2.0 movement simply because there are no longer the staff or the budget to experiment at length with services. There has to be stronger justifications for these services as a result. Libraries have to make more careful decisions about their services and purchases. Library budgets are being slashed and librarians laid off. It becomes more important to make careful balanced decisions today. Try not to make assumptions, find out what the community really wants, and realize a new service is intended to help your community rather than inflate your own ego. For those having to make those tough decisions, this book will help center your decision-making. ( )
  shadowofthewind | Aug 28, 2012 |
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