There was a comment last week that invoked a tired argument in librarianship. Some librarians are willing to defend anything they happen to like – no matter how ridiculous – with the claim that it "gets people through the doors."
Consider the case of videogaming in libraries. Some librarians just come right out and admit that they’re not interested in reading or the educational purpose of libraries, and that they see the library as a place to entertain children however children like to be entertained. Though their professional raison d’etre is similar to the person running the local arcade (if there are local arcades anymore), at least they’re upfront about it. They like games. Kids like games. The library should entertain.
Then there are the librarians who don’t really like the mass vulgarity infecting libraries, but they’re willing to put up with it because it gets people through the doors. Bums on seats, luv! That’s what libraries are for.
Either way, I can’t figure out how the librarians decide what’s good and what’s not. There are many things that would get people though the doors, including:
- Private Internet viewing booths (no Internet filters in these babies!)
- Free coffee
- Happy hours
- Free child care (de jure and not just de facto)
- Cots and showers
- Pet sitting
- Pet grooming
- Exercise equipment
- Summer camps
If the idea is to be all things to all people and just get people through the doors, then why not offer child care service or pet sitting or massages? Since there’s no coherent rationale for what libraries offer these days, there can’t possibly be an objection to these ideas based on principle. How isvideogaming any more library-like than child care? And videogaming is certainly less library-related than private Internet viewing booths. After all, they provide both access to "information" and privacy. Isn’t that what libraries are all about? Private booths should be the default location for library computers.
If librarians are serious that any of their activities can be defended by the rationale that the activities get people into the library, and if the goal of libraries is merely to get people inside them regardless of why they’re there, then librarians can be a lot more creative than they are now. Throw out some of the books and put in a jacuzzi and someStairmasters . When the reference librarians aren’t busy, have them give massages. Special chairs can be set up by the reference desks. There’s no excuse not to. Some old fashioned librarians might say, "I didn’t go to library school to give massages," but nobody pays attention to that old excuse when they say they didn’t go to library school to clear printer jams or clean restrooms. Who are these snooty librarians anyway, that they think they’re too good to massage my weary temples after a long spell of playing World ofWarcraft? Those librarians are just against change, and we’ve all been told that change is good.
I call upon librarians everywhere to start changing and offering some of the things I suggest. They’ll definitely be popular and get people through the doors. Heck, during the summer months, the libraries could probably be filled with children whose parents don’t have anything better to do with them. If you’re not offering child care and pet sitting and massages, you’re not fulfilling your duty to the public. And please do it quickly. I’m leaving for ALA in a couple of weeks, and I need someone to watch my cats while I’m away.