A Kind Reader sent in (sort of) this link to an article about an initiative in Irish libraries. Under the new initiative, patrons will be able to access libraries and check out books, even after hours when there are no librarians or other staff. They’ll even be able to use the computers all night.
The patrons will be monitored like crazy, but if Ireland’s anything like the U.K., everyone is used to that whenever they walk out on the street anyway. Here are some details of the plan:
Under the pilot scheme, selected library buildings will be fitted with automatic doors. Users will gain access to the library by using their membership card and a pin number. They will be tracked as they move through the building by both prominent and discreet security cameras. Radio-frequency identification tags will be attached to books, which will have to be scanned prior to removal.
If American libraries try this and it catches on, we may see the final nail in the coffin of professionalization among public librarians.
The professionalization squabble shows up sometimes even in the comments here. Somebody posts about the menial job duties of some public librarians and questions why the libraries even need professional librarians for that.
Some academic librarian will point out that his or her job isn’t at all like that, so don’t paint us all with the same brush. Librarians are a sensitive bunch.
But we already live in a world where many, perhaps most people who use libraries don’t know the difference between the professional librarians and everyone else, regardless of what their actual job duties are.
A middle aged woman in a frumpy sweater is a middle aged woman in a frumpy sweater from the patron’s point of view. Or, to update the stereotype, an overweight tattooed hipster is an overweight tattooed hipster, whether she’s writing code or reading shelves.
Imagine a new world not that distant, where people go into libraries and don’t encounter anyone. If they could do it at night, why not during the day as well. Self-check out everything.
The only people running the place would be the few librarian overlords behind the scenes manipulating everyone into thinking they’re enjoying themselves. The Wizards of the Library Oz.