A conversation and a revelation

Attending SU, and working at the Fayetteville Free Library, I sometimes forget that the world I’m immersed in is many ways idealistic.  I take it for granted that having a vibrant, living library built around community and conversations rather than books is a good thing, and I assume that if such an endeavor is successful, everyone will be happy about it.  The feedback from my patrons overwhelmingly shows that the library is giving them what they want.  So I was startled when I had the following encounter this afternoon:

Patron: Can I ask you a question?
Me: Sure!
Patron: Do you ever have authors in here for book signings?
Me: Sometimes!  We even-
Patron: You should really clear all this (gestures to DVD shelving) out and do stuff like that more often instead of this video game nonsense you’re promoting.
Me: Well, we try to have something for everyone.
Patron: But that defeats the whole purpose of the library!
Me: But think, if we can get teenagers in through the doors, we have a better chance of getting them interested in other things!
Patron: Well, that’s true….

I’m grateful for the reality check.  Not that 21st century libraries don’t blow their predecessors out of the water, but it’s not right to assume that everyone defines libraries the way I do.  Moreover, it’s super important for us to remember that there are those who are not only not interested in innovative library services, but who are actually threatened by their presence.  So yes, let’s keep solving problems, starting new conversations and expanding the scope of libraries’ missions, but always be ready to defend our choices.

At Fayetteville, we’ve been loud about the fact that we’re “Not your grandmother’s library!”, but what we haven’t been so explicit about (and what I hadn’t realized until today needed to be said) is that, no, we aren’t JUST your grandmother’s library, but we are still her library, and yours, and your child’s as well.

As harsh as this man’s criticism seemed to me (us 21st century librarians aren’t fond of being told to get back in our box where we belong), it was an honest expression of a completely valid point of view.  I’m all for being radical and innovative and expanding our reach, but in our rush to the new frontiers of libraryland, let’s make sure we don’t leave anyone behind.


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