Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Transformative? or merely informative?

An excellent topic for the journal discussion lunch tomorrow - Is the physical library redundant in the 21st Century?

From a related blog posting I enjoyed the following
"It is not the quantity of information available nor the ease at which it can be got that libraries should focus on, but rather the quality of the educational experience offered"

On a day when I debated the pitfalls of having too much to do and think about (and just how debilitating that was!) with a colleague in the queue at Marks and Spencers at lunchtime I wonder whether 'quality' is what we as librarians all too often fail at. We talk about, plan for, and in general aim to improve our stats - whether they are circulation or footfall or website/VLE/facebook/ebook hits. The SCONUL HE annual return encourages exactly this. But are we TRANSFORMING lives? Perhaps this sounds a bit over the top? Martin Lewis is keen to point out that numbers using the Sheffield Information Commons are increasing. I've been heard to say - oh great, footfall, book borrowing etc is up. But - I don't think that this is quite the point! The point is that the service we offer should be transformative, it should be all about impact. If the physical space of the library IS important then we should be seeing comments from students that say exactly that; we should be able to correlate degree results with use of the services - and so on. Perhaps....

I am in complete agreement with Mary Beard - on the need for time to slow down, to allow the thought processes to operate in another space with the resulting serendipitous spark of illumination on a particular matter. I shan't advocate that libraries work for me in the way they do for Mary, but I can vouch for the bike ride, the walk into town and back at lunchtime, the downtime effect of shelving a trolley load of books. Anything really that removes me from my desk and my normal place of work and gets me out into fresh air or just doing something that allows my brain to quietly jog along in the background. These are frequently my own eureka moments - and the only problem that I have is the inability to recall what they were when I get back to the desk! I'm still working on a solution......

Looking forward to the discussion.


  1. I'm looking forward to it too - lots to think about!

  2. Eureka moments - slow thinking movement.
    I found when working, and still find now, that time spent rambling or at the helm invaluable for planning articles or policies. Any location be it desk, shelving trolley or in the fresh air, remote from a computer screen or phone with its incessant beeps, feeds, alerts etc will do. The problem is how can we market the library as the place worth travelling to to think.