Practicality

I spent today at a roundtable for technical services librarians, and as usual I got an awful lot out of the experience.  What always fascinates me at these events (we try to hold three a year) is how grounded the discussions tend to be, and how far that seems to be from the sort of discourse that comes out of the scholarly publications and the conferences.

Both have their place surely, but I’ve found it to be very striking how out of touch the professional outlets seem to be with the average public librarian.  Having just attended MLA, the overall impression was that libraries are these technological marvels full of staff members that are completely knowledgeable of the latest trends in the profession, and of course when it comes to public libraries at least that’s just not the case.  The story is always one of having to do more with less, and when that means less staff members and fewer hours on top of fewer resources there’s not much that can be done.

The bulk of today’s conversation focused on such ordinary subjects as mending tips and re balancing the acquisitions work flow in the wake of the aforesaid cuts.  A brief discussion of FRBR and RDA was on the agenda, but was removed due to a lack of time, but not before it was learned that half the room had never heard of either one.   I wasn’t exactly surprised to learn this; between their resource deficiencies and the general lack of awareness that the larger library organizations seem to have of small to medium-sized libraries.  This is especially problematic here in Massachusetts because of its tendency to exclude half of itself in all things (effectively the Pioneer Valley is part of Connecticut and the Berkshires are part of New York).

I find it very sad that the sorts of libraries who were represented at today’s meeting, really the backbone of the profession, are being cast aside from the profession.  I think we’re in huge trouble if something like FRBR, which is going to affect every library out there, comes to pass without half these libraries being aware of it, and I can see that happening.  Now I know I tend to be one for plowing ahead heedlessly with innovations, but we do need to take some time out and make sure that we haven’t lost anyone in the wake.

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