Where do we go from here?

Every time I get to see other libraries, like I did extensively last week, I re-evaluate what we are doing at The Library. Following last week's visits, I am now convinced that The Library isn't a library at all. It's a book storage facility.

A real library is something like this:


What you can see here is: books, computer access, people studying, using the library's computers, using their own computers, taking notes, talking to other people.

In other words, a library is a study and research environment that is also an information hub that allows people to instantly access information from all kinds of media -- be it as books or print journals form directly from the shelf, or from databases, Internet sources, e-journals or e-books via networked computers. 

It also gives the users ample space to process the information, by means of study desks for self study in quiet study areas, by providing group discussion areas, and by providing the necessary infrastructure to connect computers. 

Apart from information media, it also offers assistance in the shape of information specialists, i.e. librarians, that not only create and maintain this infrastructure, making sure that the best and most up-to-date information sources are available; they also can be consulted so that library users can use all these resources more efficiently and more extensively.

A library that cannot offer all these things, and ideally also function as a social space where students and researchers can also take breaks nearby,


pretty much loses its purpose. A book storage facility like The Library, without adequate computing infrastructure, without adequate study areas, without group discussion areas and without social spaces, is in danger of losing its justification.

Plans to invest in The Library's infrastructure have a tendency to never materialise, and it is obvious why if you regard The Library not as a library, but as a book storage facility: with the increasing importance of electronic publications, a book storage facility is a thing of the past. At some point in the future, The Library will indeed no longer need significantly more additional storage space. The Powers That Be seem to see this happening within the next five years, whereas my own estimate is something like fifteen years; still, the truth still stands that a book storage facility is a cul-de-sac, a thing of the past. It will doubtless still have its uses in the future, but it will not primarily be what we will use libraries for.

In an era of information overload, myriads of unreliable sources and confusing user interfaces for information access, a "real" library is probably more important than ever as a controlled academic information hub with trained information specialists is more important than ever. It is therefore vital that the transition from book storage facility to library be made sooner rather than later.


What library is the one pictured above then?

Makes good sense, Horst.

@Horst. Your pictures show the library I would not even have dared to dream of when I was a student. Nowadays the city libraries are the closest thing we have to that in Vienna, I think. That is, the ones that have recently been modernised. I do remember something similar even back then: the public library of Centre Pompidou in Paris. Another library not attached to a university...

As to The Library. I am afraid, I don't see that happening there. For once, there has never been enough money for study and research, and much less for sensible projects that no provincial prince could market as political victory. And then I see no way that could happen where The Library is now. So for that to happen, The Library would need a new home - which leads me back to argument one.

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