After a lazy day yesterday it is time to buckle down.  I’m working on a new study for the Ark Group on Corporate Libraries and I have lined up some great contributors.  In addition, I’m staying busy with a few ongoing projects. 

During the lazy browsing I did yesterday I came across this post from Beyond Search, “Libraries: A Good Thing.” Stephen Arnold is a long time contributor to the information industry, think in terms of ABI/Inform. So his advocacy for librarians is well known to his followers. This article demonstrates that advocacy.

Google was a grand innovation in the early days of Internet search.  Now, it often disappoints information seekers and the return to a focus on quality, vetted information sources seems to be growing.

A report from Pew Research underscores the value placed on public libraries. How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities is available online.  The findings are worth noting, especially in terms of impact.

95% of Americans ages 16 and older agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed

95% say that public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading

94% say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community;

81% say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

In reading Arnold’s analysis of the report he points out that with 54% of Americans having used the library in the last 12 months there is some work to be done.

If accurate, this statement identifies a Pew sampling issue and underscores the need to reach the 46 percent of folks who don’t use the library more than once in a blue moon.

Libraries are slow to change.  Opportunities for innovating service delivery is constrained by budget concerns. As those budget constraints force less and less access to non-Google resources, the opportunity for entrepreneurs, individuals and small businesses to innovate will also be constrained.

Access to information, high quality, well researched information and the ability to use that information is critical for continuous economic development.  The news that more people are using the library leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Why? Economic recession that began in 2008. What they are using? Music and DVDs or access to hard to get commercial databases?

Arnold’s conclusion touches on a growing concern that professional librarians need to be aware of and willing to communicate up the chain to institutional leadership.

The Pew Report does little to lessen my concern that easily distorted free Internet information is creating a false sense of “research security.” Libraries are an asset. I want to see them become more important, offer more commercial database access, and communicate that there is more to research than letting Google’s personalized research provide information automatically.

When information professionals take an assertive role in letting leaders and users know that free comes at a high cost, the value of the library just might start to be reasserted beyond popular public library services. The opportunity to impact corporate, special, law and academic libraries in the long tradition of high quality information and higher quality information services is ready for library leaders to capitalize. 

Constance Ard, January 2, 2014