The Wall Street Journal ran a story yesterday with a rather dire title: “New Library Technologies Dispense With Librarians.” The story itself, however, is far more low-key: it addresses the self-service trend at libraries—specifically, how a relatively small number of libraries have begun using library vending machines, where patrons can pick up their own books. (The story even refers to LJ, and quotes James Lund, director of the Red Wing Public Library, MN, who wrote a piece for LJ on the same subject back in April.)
LJ has covered the trend toward self-service many times. But the WSJ seldom writes about libraries at all, and this story misses a rare opportunity to delve into the serious crises they face. Indeed, the burdens libraries are dealing with get only a passing mention.
As the Losing Libraries project proves all too vividly, there’s an epidemic of branch closings, budget cuts, and staff layoffs at libraries all over the country, and no quick fix in sight. That’s a story that needs more in-depth coverage from major media looking for a hook—and it’s one that is already affecting us all.