Libraries: Celebrating the past, present and future

As a personal observation, I have noticed a lot of negative portrayals of what libraries used to be, and what librarians used to do, in the eyes of many students. Not just in this current unit (ETL504), but throughout my whole time studying this qualification.

I have noticed that students will often praise the direction many libraries are heading towards today, painted as tech savvy community hubs that empower learners of the 21st century. Very true. These views are often contrasted with what the student remembers libraries as being when they were younger – typically painted as dark dingy places full of hard copy books gathering dust, with the librarian’s main purpose being to keep everyone quiet. Such views were also expressed by a librarian presenting at TEDxWellington (TED, 2016). I thought this was an excellent presentation none-the-less. While I love the way libraries have evolved, and continue to, I don’t believe the libraries of yesteryear were quiet as bad as many others seem to feel.

For me, my 1980s primary school library was a place full of vividly coloured posters. It had a warm and inviting ‘story corner’ with all the cushions and bean bags common to libraries at the time. The librarian often had copies of the latest picture story books which she was always eager to show off and read to us. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her ability to read these stories with such expression and heartfelt meaning made the library such a special place to be. I know it helped insta my love of reading and literacy – and I was generally quite an unengaged student in those days! My memories of our local public library were much the same. I know these memories have had a large impact on why I continue to love and value the place of libraries in society today, and why I chose to study this course.

I’m really excited at the positive ways in which libraries are helping to shape today’s world. However, I do think talk of ‘the bad old days’ is a bit exaggerated. Libraries have much to be proud about – past, present and future.

Reference:

TED. (2016, April 5). The dangerous myth about libraries [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdQwrhxw8LM

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