Roger Goult sent us this letter he wrote to local papers last year (‘Loughborough Echo’, ‘Leicester Mercury’) when the ‘Leicester Mercury’ ran an article talking about self service points in libraries and did it mean the end of professional librarians and library staff?
It was with some amusement that I read the article entitled ‘Self service will lead to job cuts in Leicestershire libraries’, ‘Leicester Mercury’ article referring to Leicestershire County Council libraries introducing self service machines, (28/09/09).
As a professional librarian with forty years experience I have often heard the prediction that libraries, books are dead in favour of electronic media, the internet etc. etc.
This is far from the truth as our profession has progressed along with the changes in technology. ‘Self service’ in Libraries is the library version of the self service ‘checkouts’ in your local supermarket enabling you to issue/ return books without recourse to waiting at an issue desk to be served by a library assistant. Whilst it is true that some library assistant’s posts might be under threat because they will not be needed to issue/return books they will still perform a vital role in libraries as the ‘frontline people’ that customers normally see in the ‘public areas’.
Professional librarians are still needed to manage and to organise libraries and their staffs and as such are usually members of the ‘Chartered Institute of Library & information Professionals’, (CILIP, formerly the Library Association) See: http://www.cilip.org.uk/default.cilip) and are expected these days to qualify for their Library & Information degree course at ‘Library School’ with ‘A levels’. I find it unhelpful in this day and age that Librarians are still regarded as ‘book stampers’, that female librarians are still categorised as wearing their hair in a bun, dress in tweed skirts and woolly jumpers and that all libraries still have ‘SILENCE’ notices.
I encourage your readers to visit their local library to see how much they have changed over the last 40 years since I qualified as a professional librarian. They take a very active part in their local communities not only providing books, DVD’s, CD’s and other materials but also promoting reading, information provision, education and a great deal of cultural activities both nationally and locally. Public libraries have not shied away from embracing modern technology (Free internet access, computerised library catalogues etc etc) so please do not think that they are still in the dark ages! I also encourage your readers to make use of their local library- use the internet, find out about that local community event, borrow a book (Free!- the principle of free public libraries was established in this country) DVD, CD etc. As someone once said in another context- use it or lose it! Even having ‘self service’ points in a library will not make any difference if there are no customers to use it and it has to close!!
Roger Goult MCLIP