Office Hours: Stuck in the Past

My new column is up at Library Journal:

“I like books.” This is one answer to the introductory question I ask when meeting a class for the first time: “What brings you to librarianship?” The answers vary just as LIS students do, whether they’re recent college graduates or those returning to school for a second career in libraries. The “books” answer begs the question, “Do you mean the content or the container?” Students starting graduate school who want to work in libraries with stacks filled with books may be aiming for the wrong ­profession.

Archives and rare books collections will always need librarians to curate and preserve, but the shift within public and academic libraries of late may mean a very different set of duties not revolving entirely around the containers so many of us love.

At a recent dinner with three academic library directors, all detailed plans to move more and more of their book and print journal collections to storage facilities to make additional space for students to study and collaborate.

The book–library connection isn’t limited to wannabe librarians; it’s the public’s view, as well. OCLC’s recent study Perceptions of Libraries, 2010 reports that the number of people who associate the word library with books has risen to 75 percent—up from 69 percent in 2005. As Borders stores close around the country and ereader popularity soars, we need to focus on what comes next in the evolution of our services.