What are librarians for?

Seth Godin wrote an interesting piece about libraries recently, and it rang true with me. I’m reading more than ever, but I wouldn’t even bother asking a librarian what I should read next.

Public librarians today seem to act more like sentinels of dead-tree collections. They own the data, they tidy the shelves and care for the books but when they want a recommendation, they use goodreads.com or amazon like the rest of us. Knowledge is a handwave at the encyclopedias in the corner or the ancient pcs lined against the wall. As much as bookshops are suffering from their failed attempts to get into multimedia and from publishers not understanding how people buy books, their staff are still typically enthusiastic, informed book-lovers, able to make a recommendation professionally rather than only knowing the authors they’ve read.

This is a generalisation of course, but it is at least anecdotally true. My region’s library website is librarieswest.org.uk and despite knowing which books I get out, my wife gets and what we get for our son, it makes no recommendations. Just like its meatspace equivalent.

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One thought on “What are librarians for?”

  1. I suppose for all parties involved it would be better if libraries would collect this data (which books you and your relatives took, probably etc) and made it accessible for you – after all, it is your data too. Then it could be used for refining Amazon recommendations or whatever.
    First I thought of simply integrating mainstream recommendation service(s) with such data, but then remembered Locker Project and i adapted idea to more future-proof and more open trends.

    Similar approach could be used to other “real-world services” which collect your data but barely use it.

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