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Libraries in the Mainstream Banner

This post was inspired by NPR’s Why the Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries. Full disclosure: I used to work for an NPR/PBS affiliate.

Flickr user: simiant

Whenever I find great articles about libraries/librarians or in support of libraries, I tend to get pretty pumped. In the case of this NPR article, I’m not so sure. The cupcakes article went viral last week – I think I had it Tweeted @ me a dozen or so times, posted to my Facebook wall a handful of times, re-posted by librarian friends on their walls, etc. – and I’m already sick of this. This article led a number of my friends and I to discuss whether libraries being a fad was a good or bad thing. Our consensus? It’s not great.

I’ll fully admit that the trendiness of libraries and books is part of why blogs like the one you’re reading have a following. We’re “hip”. Young librarians + the Internet = massive information sharing. We get it.

In the short-term, libraries-as-a-fad could be a great thing. We’re more likely to have mentions in national media, shedding light on our dire funding situations. People might become more educated about how we work and why we exist. In the long-term, however, I’m nervous. It’s no news to regular readers of this blog that my library is up for a millage renewal next week, and if it doesn’t pass, our entire 13-branch system will close on January 3. That’s over 250 library jobs gone. That means that there will only be one, small public library in my county that I’ll have to pay a non-resident fee to use. To be frank, it would be really sh*tty.

The NPR article reads:

There seems to be a preposterous level of goodwill. Quite honestly, I feel like you can go on YouTube and act like a complete goof (in the best way), and if it’s for libraries, people have that same rush of warmth that they used to get about people who had sextuplets, before … well, you know. Before.

Are they saying we’re the next Jon & Kate Plus 8? Really? Maybe not, but libraries are about significantly more than our YouTube videos. The Plus 8 crew has dealt with a huge backlash against them once their saccharine facade cracked in 2009. Does that mean libraries have a few years of goodwill remaining before everyone is sick of our videos? Or us? Before our fall from happy family grace spells the end of libraries? For us there’s no “Twist of Kate” spinoff in development. Pardon the drama, but for us, losing that “preposterous level of goodwill” could spell curtains.

I would love to hear what readers have to say on this subject. Especially fellow librarians.


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