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What to Call the Reinvented Library?

A lot of passionate people seemed to be commenting last week. I noticed one easily incensed person was “disappointed” to find opinions she so strongly disagreed with published at the Library Journal.

One would think she should be excited to find a public forum to defend her sacred cows. I bet there are librarians for whom the highlight of their work day is thinking they’ve set the record straight about something they read online. That always feels good.

However, I’ve noticed over the years there’s a minority of librarians who would rather quash dissenting voices than have to go out of their way to read them for free.

Although I’m sure they would protest that they don’t want to censor dissenting views; they just don’t want those dissenting views published anywhere people might actually read them. A subtle distinction.

But on to the burning question of the day: what should we start calling libraries instead of “libraries”? There must be a better name.

After all, libraries are reinventing themselves, with “books out and 3D printers in.” Since the word “library” is derived from the Latin word for “book,” having a library without books seems a little silly.

Oh, I know the term has expanded. You can have an iTunes library, for example. But it does usually still mean a collection of something organized so that you can find it.

An iTunes library is such a collection, but is a maker space?

If “libraries are no longer the domain of shooshing librarians,” and are instead for artists and knitters to congregate, then why still call them libraries? That just sounds archaic, and above all librarians seek to be hip and relevant.

So we need a new name for libraries, something that captures the spirit of all this reinventioness.

“Community center” might do. That’s bland enough to mean almost anything, but it’s also too bland to promote. People like libraries. There’s no historical good feelings about “community centers.” Those are places where kids with no other place to go hang out, or maybe people congregate in if there’s a weather disaster.

Part of the problem is that as libraries reinvent themselves, it’s never clear what they want to become. The only thing the reinventions seem to have in common is that libraries want to be all things to all people.

Will 3D printers get people in the door? Then buy some! Sewing machines? Toss out the books and put some in.

However, that does help point us toward a name. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and by that I meant I went to Google Translate and tried to find the Latin for a “place for all things for all people.” We have to go with Latin to keep the symmetry with “library.”

Google gave me “omnia in omnis locus.” I’m not sure if that’s exactly right, but it’s good enough. We’re making words here, not trying to pass exams in ancient languages. However, we need to make a single noun of that somehow.

I suggest Omnilocus, with the plural being Omniloci. It’s the “all things place.”

I think it’s even got a ring to it. “Yeah, I headed over to the omnilocus to get a shoeshine and a DVD of Coneheads.”

The great thing about it is that we don’t have to hear any more talk about reinventing it. There’s not a couple thousand years of history behind the omniloci.

I Googled “omnilocus,” and found only 63 hits, some of them in languages I don’t even recognize. Even to find those I had to break out some Google judo, because it kept wanting to give me results for “omnifocus.”

Thus, it will be a century at least before any pundits write something like, “The omnilocus is no longer the domain of scurrying omnilocians [the people who run omniloci].”

Even that might not happen, because if a place is identified a a place for all things for all people, as adaptive to the needs of everyone in the community equally whatever they are, then how could it really ever go out of date? The Omnilocus would never have to reinvent itself!

I hope all you budding omnilocians out there are please with the result. You don’t have to worry about stereotypes anymore. There will never be any news articles with pictures of your clothing and the headline “not your traditional omnilocian anymore.”

By the way, I haven’t decided if the “c” in “omnilocus” and “omnilocian” should be hard or soft. You can decide for yourself until the matter is settled by common usage. I suggest hard for the place, soft for the person. So phonetically, omnilokus and omniloshun.

The omnilocus is a new thing in the world, and the omnilocian a new creature with no history, no baggage, and no expectations. No one can ever say, “I didn’t go to omnilocian school to do this!”

Fare well, omnilocians, you have a brave new world to conquer.

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Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    I’ll take an Omnilocian program if it means we can toss out Informatics and stop trying to pretend it’s the equivalent of a computer science degree.

  2. Frumious Bandersnatch says:

    This. I’ve said for years that the waning of public regard for the institution of the Library is as much or more because of our own continual, self absorbed identity crises as for any other reason. People aren’t sure who we are anymore, because we quit being who we were. I, personally, have no desire to be hip, and would like to be a Librarian, rather than a combination cruise ship entertainment director and customer service rep.

    • Joneser says:

      And because we can’t actually say “NO” (that would be conflict) to the imposition of stuff like this by so-called and self-proclaimed “change agents”.

    • Mmmmaty says:

      Reactionary. Libraries have programmed events unrelated to books for decades. Where ya been?

  3. Andrew says:

    Seems like everyone uses the term Learning Commons with Library

  4. joey says:

    Plus, then we can get a Master’s Of Omnilocal Theory, then our degree’s would still remain MOOT.

  5. Midwest SciTech Librarian says:

    One problem facing the Ominlocus movement, your membership dues to the American Library Association may go up with all the rebranding they will have to do. They will now be the American Omnilcus Assocation (AOA), their publication will become American Omniloci and think of all the resolutions that will come out at all the conferences relating to the new name!

    Not to mention, this publication will have to change to Omnilocus Journal. This will cause pain to Serials Omnilocians everywhere!

  6. James Hogg says:

    Thanks for this, it is brilliant, I did just find it however googling for “omnifocus” so … !

  7. Spencer says:

    Could we also not use “conantur etiam” meaning roughly “Try too hard?”

  8. word says:

    Everyone knows an Omnilocian gives the best shoe shine. Who else would look up military specifications for gloss levels on finished shoe leather?

  9. Skipbear says:

    Oh, my dear Annoyed Librarian. We have enough trouble teaching people to say “Library” vs. “Liberry” without forcing our adoring public to actually pronounce something that sounds more Latin. I’m sorry anything with the word “Omni” tends to make me think of drinking gin and tonics at a high-price hotel bar during all those wonderful conferences I don’t get to go to.

    I also wince each time I hear some well-intentioned administrator type idiot wannabe hipster think that all our image problems will be solved calling it an Information Common or Academic Common. Add the Maker-Space, video games, coffee bar and bouncy house to it and we got nothing but an adult play pen. Maybe a good name is an “I-want” or “I-need” pronounced as a single word. Otherwise I’m happy with ‘Liberry”.

    • dan cawley says:

      with all due respect…skipbear,…could you please remove the word bouncyhouse? if you fail to do so, we will have one installed next week.

      why? because our liberry is “bleeding edge!”

  10. “Although I’m sure they would protest that they don’t want to censor dissenting views; they just don’t want those dissenting views published anywhere people might actually read them. A subtle distinction.”

    That explains why former Library Journal Editor-in-Chief Francine Fialkoff refused to allow LJ to publish what Children’s Internet Protection Act author Ernest Istook wrote describing how ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom intentionally misleads communities leaving about a third of them into allowing Internet porn despite that law and other authority.

    No library media, other than myself, wrote about what the CIPA author said (link under my name). Krug’s dragging ALA’s money through the mud only to lose on the false claim that filters violate the First Amendment was and is the biggest issue ALA ever addressed. Then out comes the CIPA author himself speaking on CIPA and its implementation in public libraries, and LJ is silent. American Libraries is silent. To this day OIF trains librarians essentially how to mislead communities into thinking US v. ALA doesn’t apply to them.

    AL is right again.

    “Although I’m sure they would protest that they don’t want to censor dissenting views; they just don’t want those dissenting views published anywhere people might actually read them. A subtle distinction.”

  11. anonymous says:

    Wikipedia has not only replaced libraries, it has renamed their successor institution, namely, “An Information Commons is an information system, such as a physical library or online community, that exists to produce, conserve, and preserve information for current and future generations. Wikipedia could be considered to be an information commons to the extent that it produces and preserves information through current versions of articles and histories.”

    The real question is, what do we call the re-invented librarian?

  12. Stackers says:

    All Things to All People should be a public library’s motto. Most criticisms revolve around services that are mismatched to the libraries original goals, however this is especially true in youth services. Yearly programs, especially in the summer, revolve around throwing iPads at the next stampeding group of boys who come into the library. In our moments of restraint, we merely hold off and deliver a Wii U to the winner of a summer reading program – the disgust writes itself.
    There is little incentive to focus on the actual collection, print or digital. Book reviews? Nope. Publication incentive? Yeah right. When everybody does everything but provide core services the institution has either lost it’s confidence to provide these services, or it doubts its own relevance.
    I’m giving little new insight, but this blog seems to be the only outlet for those who see this “everything AND the kitchen sink” philosophy as deadly to the library’s mission. Having no defined duties or goals de-legitimizes library professionals, and youth will define the library as they’ve always known it: a community center for everybody and everything but it’s original purpose.

    • joey says:

      It’s definitely a sacred cow to some people. I once suggested that I don’t think a library should be used as a soup kitchen or mess hall for the hungry, and a few people jumped all over me because I apparently hate poor people, and because “helping people” is the mission of a librarian.

  13. Kay says:

    To work reinvented libraries, a master’s degree won’t be needed, perhaps not even a first degree. If a library want to become everything to everybody, it actually will not serve anyone. Most of the opinions I read/hear defending libraries are by librarians. I do not consider them objective or analyzed because librarians have vested interest in libraries. If people don’t need libraries, libraries should disappear. If reinvented libraries are supported by people, fine, but I won’t be working in them.

  14. Peter Ward says:

    Why do we think that this gibberish about needing to reinvent the library is even a little bit useful. At my LIBRARY we are all LIBRARIANS. Our purpose is to raise the general intellectual curiosity of the community by providing books and a variety of reading experiences. We use our virtual resources to achieve that purpose. We don’t run away from books and reading. Yes, sometimes we get too involved in new age library stuff, but we soon come to our senses. You want maker spaces? That is what a garage is for. A LIBRARY is for books and reading…and for LIBRARIANS courageous enough to proudly do the work needed to create lifelong readers.

  15. lonelibrarian says:

    In the never-ending discussions of what to call the new library, it was a peaceful moment when I found Neil Gaiman’s poster, “A library gives every citizen equal access. It’s a community space. It’s a place of safety, a haven from the world. It’s a place with librarians in it. Libraries really are the gates of the future.” So, what’s wrong with remaining The Library?. It’s where the suff I need is, it’s where I want to be, it’s where I get to use a computer, get free wi-fi. I often go to public libraries on the weekend, just because. I usually meet up with a homeless man. How do I know he’s homeless. I’ve seen his grocery store cart piled with everything one might need if one didn’t have a home. He follows the rules like the rest of us: one hour of clocked internet, then it’s the next person’s turn, or you can reschedule if no one is waiting. Everything orderly, mannerly. Why? Because the librarians there are respectful, helpful, and expect the patrons to do likewise. The kids come to play games. They’re considerate and turn down the volume. We all sit close together, working, reading, playing, living. Isn’t that enough to be? We get along nicely without coffees, makerspaces, just people trying to enrich their personal journey. A library has always been the place to learn. Just because there are new and varied ways to do it, doesn’t mean we need a name change.

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