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The future of libraries

Posted by phourigan on May 10, 2010

I got a request from a history teacher asking me to help his students make documentaries on the US Civil War.  I sent him a quick link on Documentary Making 101 and asked if I could come to his class and ask questions of his students, so I could better understand the point of the assignment.  I stressed how important the research and preparation were going to be, rather than jumping right into the filming.  I offered up GarageBand as a platform, but also that we could explore iMovie and Final Cut Pro.

He had CC’d one of our librarians, who e-mailed this back to the both of us: “You may have some problems with finding adequate material as the  7th grade is currently working on Civil War research, and they have borrowed many of the Civil War books.”

I love our librarians – they are an under-appreciated group.  But this sentence worries me.  At the very least, it emphasizes exactly why paper resources have to go.  Imagine if Google gave the answer, “Sorry – your search couldn’t be completed because someone else was searching for the same thing at the same time.”  At best, it shows how librarians need to be at the cutting edge of technology.

Technology is about information – finding it, analyzing it, keeping the good stuff and throwing the bad stuff out.  Being a discriminating researcher on the web takes practice, and we need librarians to shepherd students in the right directions.  Limiting a search to book resources only is cutting out a huge (the biggest!) source of information available.  You can argue all you want about a book being more factually accurate than any random person’s web page, but there are far more credible web pages that are updated far more often than a dusty book that’s checked out twice a year.

Imagine – problems finding material on the Civil War.  I can’t remember the last time I had trouble finding information on anything.  I now have to think about how this is a learning opportunity for more than just the students.


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