Libraries: An appreciation

If I couldn’t be a journalist, I think I’d be a librarian. I decided this after spending a lot of time in libraries in the last couple of years and interacting with some very smart (and completely unstuffy) librarians.

Maybe it’s because, as it turns out, journalists and librarians have a lot in common.

Fundamentally, we’re both interested in making information useful and meaningful to the widest possible audience. Beyond that, practitioners in both fields are committed to public service, free speech, open access, transparency in sourcing, etc.

Librarianship might not be the hippest profession — one more thing we share, I suppose — though, as my former LAT colleague David Sarno points out, this is changing.

Librarians with an eye to the future speak not of books but of an information commons — an open network of places, both physical and virtual, where people come not just to receive knowledge but to create and share knowledge with others.

In the U.S., public libraries are seeing record numbers of visitors. Even circulation is up.

Unfortunately, budgets are down. Libraries are a convenient target for cash-strapped local governments looking to save money.

But cuts to public libraries, especially in bad economic times, are short-sighted. They hit job seekers, community groups and people engaged in independent study, among others.

It’s time civic leaders took a closer look at libraries and the services they provide and imagine how much poorer our society’s information commons would be without them.

Photo: Seattle Central Library by Flickr user pmorgan (Creative Commons)

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