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The librarian's lament

Published March 08. 2014 09:00AM

The librarian was upset. She told me that she feared for her job. Her fear stemmed from the fact that the library's inventory was changing.

In the past, a librarian was needed to help the patrons find information and recommend books that fit a need. With the advent of the Internet, everything changed. Also, technological advances such as the e readers, DVDs, and audio books have taken the place of bound volumes.

The librarian told me that nowadays the majority of patrons come to the library to use the public computers. Parents come to check out DVDs instead of books. This particular librarian wanted to institute a policy that a patron must sign out at least one book if they take a DVD. She thought that might encourage the parent to read to the child. The policy was never initiated because the library board thought it wouldn't work. They told the librarian that she couldn't 'dictate' that the parents had to choose a book.

With a sad face, the librarian told me "Can you believe it? A librarian cannot ask a parent to sign out a book!" I shook my head in sympathy. But, I reminded her - "Any parent worth her salt knows the value of reading to your child. The ones who don't understand that fact probably plunk the kid down in front of the TV and show a DVD to make life easier for themselves."

I felt sorry for the librarian. Her world was changing and she was having a hard time changing with it. Her education gave her an expertise in skills that were less and less necessary in today's world.

When a patron needs to know something, he can access Google or another search engine and forgo the pleasure of dealing with a librarian. In many cases, folks see no need to go to a library if they have a computer at home.

I must admit, dear reader, that I, too, have succumbed to modern technology. I own a Kindle, which is Amazon's version of an ereader. I have more than 50 books on my Kindle. I have read 38 of them. The other 12 await my pleasure.

It is wonderful to be able to order a book and see it appear on my screen in seconds. Most of the books cost far less than they do in a bookstore. Plus, the convenience of the device is irrefutable. As much as I love holding a book and turning pages, my Kindle makes it easy for me to navigate. The printing can be adjusted to various sizes, and the book can be accessed in the dark because the screen lights up. No longer do I have to worry about waking Jim if I want to read late at night.

I would imagine that many librarians are worried about their jobs. With the advent of new technology, the old-fashioned role of the librarian disappears. Now, the librarian must become skilled in the use of the newest technological wonders.

Trying to help the librarian feel better, I reminded her that there are lots of people who still need her assistance. In her heart, she knows that, but it must be hard for her to watch her beloved library become a multimedia center.

Many libraries are becoming 'learning centers' that assist patrons in many ways. The old image of a building full of books is not the picture of a library in 2014.

Hopefully, all the librarians will step up their own learning and become vital partners for their customers. For, if the librarian can't change, her lamentations may be the death of her employment.

If you would like to contact Dr. Smith, she can be reached at her email address: or in care of this newspaper.

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