I believe public libraries should move away from being ‘houses of knowledge’ and move more towards being ‘houses of access.’
-Kathryn Zickuhr (2014)
For the Hyperlinked Environments module, I chose to focus on public libraries, but I did also look at some of the other types as well. Mostly, I found myself interested in how public libraries are representing themselves to users, the community, and local governments. It seems we are continuously trying to raise awareness about what libraries do and the services provided. Many people aren’t aware of the wide range of things that libraries do, or they still consider them to be book warehouses. This is an issue I have come across in many of my classes as well as at my work or when I tell people what I do for a living. I find myself having a lot of conversations advocating for libraries, and people often surprised that the libraries offers more than books. With limited (and sometimes reduced) resources, budget, and staff, how do libraries continue providing the same level of service while increasing awareness in the community? That surely is a tricky balancing act that I face.
I liked how Kathryn Zickuhr (2014) mentioned that librarians are seeing libraries move towards being houses of access as that is what the public is asking for. Physical books are wonderful, and I certainly don’t think they should be eliminated from libraries. However, I have found that some people have an aversion to recognizing that the library is indeed books and more. When I mention various activities the library does or how we could use more space for people to gather, some people agree but hesitate and say ‘as long as you still have books!’ or ‘but libraries need space for books!’ as if I meant we no longer need books. Zickuhr (2014) noted that computer access has been one of the most popular services that libraries provide, which I have found to be true as well. However, I often hear people complain that libraries have turned into computer labs or they disapprove of others who spend so much time on the computers. I don’t think people always realize the multitude of activities there are and benefits that come from having computer access for the public.
I also enjoyed how Jakob Guillois Laerkes (2016) described the four overlapping spaces of the public library: the inspiration space, the learning space, the meeting space, and the performative space. I think this highlights the complexity of libraries and allows for the inclusion of people who learn differently or are looking for various kinds of activities. Libraries want to serve as many people as possible by offering something for everyone, rather than only offering the same thing for everyone. By engaging people in different ways, libraries are advocating for how important and relevant they still are. Programs and events are some obvious ways to promote libraries as ‘houses of access’ but as technology advances and the needs of the public change, I imagine there will be many opportunities for libraries to engage with people through more participatory methods.
Laerkes, J.G. (2016). The four spaces of the public library.