Your Ignorance Will Not Protect You

(Author's Note: This post was originally published in the June 9th issue of The Scoop, the Youth Services Newsletter of the Idaho Commission for Libraries.)

The title of this post is direct, blunt and confrontational. It’s meant to be. It’s also a piercingly honest take on our profession. Metaphorically burying our heads in the sand will only serve to bury us and all of librarydom in the end. Hiding from the truth won’t make it disappear.

I lifted the title straight from K.G. Schneider’s reality-checking blog post, "The User Is Not Broken: A Meme Masquerading as a Manifesto." If you haven’t read it yet, you should. In fact, even if you’ve already read it, you should read it again. Follow up with Michelle Boule’s corollary post," We Are Broken, Not 'Them,'” to round it out further.

Reading through Schneider’s manifesto (and Boule’s additions), you probably had one of two reactions to their assertions. You might already be rallying behind the call to arms as you print copies to post up on staff bulletin boards, forward links to all your library friends, or even just ponder the implications. You might not have agreed with everything on the list (chances are you don’t) but you probably found most of it rings true.

On the other hand, you might have responded by generating a mental litany of objections or dismissals, shrugged it off as unimportant, or maybe simply felt your eyes glaze over halfway through. You reassure yourself that libraries, librarians and library services don’t need to evolve drastically because there hasn’t been a drastic drop-off in usage. Things don’t need to change because that’s the way we’ve always done it and it works fine, thank you very much. Libraries will persevere because libraries have always persevered.

For the most convinced and assured, there’s not much to be said that would persuade them otherwise. But those in disagreement with the manifesto, while still skeptical, remember this – your ignorance will not protect you. Society is experiencing radical shifts as a result of technology, globalization and other upheavals. The library as a static, rigid institution will be marginalized, minimized and eventually extinct if it fails to embrace profound change.

The library is only as adaptable as its employees and policies. Everyone in an organization must express a willingness to try the new and progressive for large, positive changes to be possible. Everyone, especially management, must be willing to take risks and accept that some changes will falter or fail along the way. Approach the library as a user who is not entrenched in library lingo or culture, with intent to remove or reduce the obstacles and policies that clutter their way.

Ultimately though, this is all so much talk. And as they say, talk is cheap. It’s up to you to shed ignorance, take action, instigate change, and evolve your library.