The ideas we’ve been engaging with over the course of this class are concepts that I think those of us already working in libraries have been mulling over for some time. Those outside the library think that we traffic in books and technology—which is true on a surface level, but we know that while those things might be the tangible manifestation of our work, our real jobs center around people. Sally Pewhairangi explains in her article, “A Beautiful Obsession,” that, “[t]he principal currency today is no longer information, products or services; it is human attention” (2014, p. 8). For libraries, that means fighting against the barrage of other attention-grabbing distractions so readily available with services that patrons want.
As this awareness has permeated the profession, we have made a bigger effort to ask our patrons what services and programming they need. Aaron Schmidt argues in his piece, “Asking the Right Questions: The User Experience,” that while this effort is laudable, we are again missing the point. He suggests that “[i]nstead of asking people about libraries, we need to ask people about their lives” (Schmidt, 2016). At first glance, this might seem counter-intuitive, but when reexamined it actually makes a lot of sense. People’s notions of what a library is and what services are possible are as limited as the representations of librarians in popular media:
By framing questions around the lives of patrons instead of their understanding of libraries and library services, librarians not only build meaningful relationships with their users, but they obtain the information necessary to provide truly transformative programming—programming that can connect us with each other and the world around us. And this is at the heart of what libraries do, as so eloquently described by Amy Stolls in “The Healing Power of Libraries.” She rightly points out that libraries generally, and books specifically, remind us “that there is beauty in our shared language, that in our struggles we are often not alone. They help us heal” (Stolls, n.d.). No matter the service, it is the healing power of connection that hyperlinked libraries provide to their communities.
Cinefantastique Online (2009). Ghostbusters: Library. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYjFKsJjCP0&feature=youtu.be
Pewhairangi, S. (2014). A beautiful obsession. Weve, 7–10.
Schmidt, A. (2016). Asking the right questions: The user experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=asking-the-right-questions-the-user-experience
Stolls, A. (n.d.). The healing power of libraries. National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved from: https://www.arts.gov/article/healing-power-libraries.