Friday, September 26, 2014

Close down the Libraries?

I have been asked by multiple people, why can't the Library be digital. This question comes in many forms. The following article asks the same basic question:

Mr. Worstall asks a very good question. His question is more relevant to public libraries rather than academic libraries, but the question comes back to a definition of terms. With all due respect to Mr. Worstall's reasoning, he has made a category error.

According to Richard Rubin, libraries have seven values: "Service, reading and the book are important, Respect for truth and search for truth, tolerance, the public good, justice, and aesthetics."(Foundations of Library and Information Science, 3rd. ed., pg 405) I am not convinced that Amazon has the same set of values of librarianship.

The reason that Mr. Worstall has identified an organization that does not have the same values comes from the fact that Amazon is offering a collection of books rather than a library. In this article, he identifies Bath as his home library.

Mr. Worstall's home library provides arbitration services, hosts book clubs, and provides an archive for historical community information. Amazon does not, and cannot do these things. Amazon does not have antiquarian or archival sensibilities, as evidenced in the following story.

Additionally, the number of books in a collection is a bad metric of usability of the library. The number of books in a library does not matter, if they are the wrong books.

A library is more than a collection of books. It has an aesthetic, a philosophy, a mission.

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