While neither librarians nor patrons would appreciate people running and screaming through the building, the days of ssh-ing and hushed voices are long gone in today’s libraries.
For proof, just eavesdrop on children’s story time or stand outside the door of a teen center. You’ll hear laughter and engaged conversation. It’s a far cry from the sepulchral atmosphere of the early 20th century.
Today’s libraries are far from the stone monuments of a century ago. Indeed, much of today’s activity is conducted in a computer cloud rather than inside a building. And much of what does go on inside the building has little to do with books.
Sunday is the beginning of National Library Week, a celebration of those public gateways to information. The theme — “Unlimited possibilities @ your library” — reflects the increasing shift away from books; although, make no mistake, books remain at the forefront of what libraries are about.
We celebrate libraries and librarians as guides to an information universe. They can direct you to what you need to know to do your taxes, cook dinner or buy a car. They can point out books or movies you might enjoy based on your tastes and interests.
You don’t even have to go to the library, although there is value in just walking along shelves of books looking at titles in no particular way. Reference librarians can answer questions by responding to e-mails and often conduct Web chats. The goal is to get you, the library patron, the information you want or need.
Author Neil Gaiman once said, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”
But you have to ask. Libraries are a valuable and valued community resource. But they work only when people utilize the services.
So take a moment to stop by the library, especially if you haven’t been to one for a while. And stop by one of the desks and thank the librarians.
A library card is a passport to a world of information, and a librarian can be your tour guide.