International and Comparative Librarianship

S. R. Ranganathan, P. N. Kaula, R. N. Sharma, J. F. Harvey, D. J. Foskett, J. P. Danton, M. M. Jackson, etc.
This Blogosphere has a slant towards India [a.k.a Indica, Indo, South-Asian, Oriental, Bharat, Hindustan, Asian-Indian (not American Indian)].

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Will tomorrow's libraries become more like museums of today -- A question for the coming decade

Libraries, archives and museums have a common function, i.e., collect information as depositories. To this extent Kathryn Kozak's bibliography IFLA's Public Libraries, Archives and Museums: Trends in Collaboration; Information Organization in Libraries, Archives and Museums: Converging Practices and Collaboration Opportunities by Ingrid Hsieh-Yee, et al., @ 2009 ASIS&T Annual Meeting ... and 'Museums and Libraries ... perfect together From Stephen Abrams' show dependence and relationship of libraries and museums.

The punchline is here: "Libraries may have changed over the years - no longer do pages carry scrolls in wooden buckets - but the need for a repository of knowledge remains." [Survivor: The History of the Library]

Are then, libraries contented with this convergence or is it a trial period? Does such a convergence and synchronization reflect on the ability / inability to continue with the foundations of librarianship? See, the bottomline, below for the foundations as spelled by the Guru of Library Science.

Whereas, libraries have a distinct function: dissemination, that includes, user-oriented services offered through circulation, reference service, information literacy, bibliographic assistance, etc. (plus providing open access, free for all and open for all--as against touch-me-not museum pieces).

Lest we forget, the Five Laws of Dr. S R Ranganathan-- (see: here and here)--illustrate this distinctiveness of libraries. And, if this distinction is hindered, altered or deleted, libraries may simply fit in a category called touch-me type of museum. This is not to undermine one factor: selection, acquisition, processing, and storage are the common functions of libraries, archives, museums, etc.

Hence, librarians, administrators and library users, are reflecting or at least facilitating to consider whatz up:

  • "Will tomorrow's libraries become more like museums of today – depositories of cultural artifacts?" says, Brinley Franklin, Vice Provost, University of Connecticut Libraries (ACRL – NEC, Spring 2005 Conference , The Future of College & Research Libraries: The Future is Now May 20, 2005)

  • "Over time there will only be a few large libraries, much like the museums of today." A comment by a reader (in N.J. libraries face budget crunch, cuts in services By Matt Dowling, The Star-Ledger, January 02, 2009)

  • "Libraries of yesterday are the museums of today. I do not know what will be the future in this computer age?" says, a library user; he sent me these pictures, depicting the grandeur and the glory of these library buildings (libraries, with hardly any users or privilege to borrow, browse, etc.): Libraries of Europe

  • "The armories of yesterday must become the museums of today; and our libraries must become the armories of tomorrow." Another user on the Web

  • Austin Pub Library: Not a Museum ~ Your Story, Your Archive: An Exhibit About the Value of Archives

  • "Library conservation is not like museum conservation, which aims to make an object fit for essentially passive use, such as exhibition. Library materials can be heavily used and must withstand the risk of misuse." The Evidence in Hand: Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in ..

  • The London Museum Librarians and Archivists Group 2009 Conference: Not Museum Pieces: the Role of Archivists and Librarians in Museums to be held 10 September 2009, The National Gallery, London, UK

  • An assessment of inter-indexing consistency among library, archive and museum professionals. Abstract.
    See also: An Assessment of Inter-Indexing Consistency ... survey

    “A library is not a museum but a workshop full of life and activity. It is not the books which gets rapidly worn out by constant use that should worry a library according to this view, but it is the book which would seldom leave the shelf that needs anxious attention and effective treatment. This view is now revolutionizing everything connected with the library.” Quoted from A Dictionary of Library and Information Science Quotations. Edited by Mohamed Taher & L S Ramaiah. ISBN: 8185689423 (New Delhi , Aditya, 1994) p. 319

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    Anonymous AKP said...

    Sure that is the history.. clay tablets, old books, paper books...printed documents....

    12:05 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The same, infinitely

    8:42 AM  
    Blogger Nora said...

    The post misses many points that belie the assumptions made here. 1) museum exhibitions are no longer passive but interactive and educational; 2) convergence between libraries and museums is more active in the digital environment - where museum artifacts are indeed "used" (much the way that library contents are and were); 3) some libraries have always had museum like collections; 4)some libraries are for more active use than others.

    9:08 AM  
    Blogger Mohamed Taher said...

    Thanks for the great lead. It is good that you have highlighted the missing areas.

    I need more feedback on the 'books are for use (it is other than touch-me-not)' and the five laws that implies real access to the whole document where-you-want, when-you -want and how-you-want (not virtual merely about digital objects or samples; a museum has its value in originals, not in photo copies, if I may respond to your point).

    Lets continue the discussion.

    12:09 PM  
    Blogger Jai Haravu said...

    I am afraid all the projections and prophecies for libraries being made is unfortunately very limited to the western world. If indeed I have to make a comparison between the educational institutions in the west versus the east, I could say that in the east we are still in the middle ages as compared to the west. Except for a few of the elite institutions in countries like India, most others do not have anything resembling a conventional library, much less a digital environment. Please remember that millions (sorry billions) live in the rural areas where electricity is itself a luxury. Permanent roofs over the building of a so called school and even blackboards are hard to come by. A few books with innovative teachers can make a world of difference and hopefully lead the children to the use of new tools in time to come.

    I may have painted a dismal picture and if so it is intentional. A different kind of revolution is taking place in the developing world; the cell phone has become the most ubiquitous medium of communication, exchange and dissemination of information. Most everyone, except in the remotest corners of a country like India has a cell phone and I believe that these communities will not in time even know that an institution like a library existed somewhere. They will probably be missed only by old foggies like me. However, I believe that libraries as institutions will survive for some time in their pristine form in the developing world for many years. Why do we have to ape the west?

    7:13 AM  
    Blogger Mohamed Taher said...

    Thanks Prof. Haravu.
    I agree with you 1000% that India and developing world have their own tell tales, Wherein library as an information resource remains a show piece in the architectural maps (I mean major State Libraries in India that are housed in royal structures at hyderabad, bangalore, etc.), street maps and then of course the last: finance ministry's annual budgetary lines. Period.

    Even in the western world, it is easy today to close a library (not just in the developing world), drop major 'services' and get rid of most full-time staff, despite the pomp, glory and the hundred years of libraray history as great information resource.

    My question is, however, about the distinction (presuming it applies to libraries in advanced geographical settings), between the libraries and museums? And, this distinction based on the Five Laws (Use, User oriented, service-based, dissemination-focused) perspectives? Any thoughts about this subject?

    11:00 AM  
    Anonymous Martin R. Kalfatovic said...

    Thank you for the promotion. A very interesting blog.

    4:11 PM  
    Anonymous Prof. Krishan Kumar said...

    I will go through and send my comments.
    The issues raised are crucial.

    4:14 PM  

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