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"Enduring" Libraries - A Worrisome Metaphor


Infomancy writes "Dr. Roger Schank, writing in the new District Administration blog, The Pulse, shares his view of "The Library Metaphor."

In the old days, when people actually went to libraries, there were card catalogues, which were created with arcane notions such as the Dewey Decimal System that helped searchers find books that had been properly catalogued. But we don't need that stuff anymore, because we have Google. [Schank]



I hope that some of you will feel moved to join the conversation and ask Roger Schank and Gary Stager (the editor of The Pulse) to reconsider their view of libraries. While some of you may be thinking this is a school issue, I would suggest that it is another part of a larger problem - the general perception of libraries. Additionally, at least here in New York, many public libraries are incorporated under school districts and probably don't want school administrators to come away from reading their top magazine with the idea that libraries are no longer needed...

I would suggest that any perceptual problems libraries have are with administration, voter or town gov't that decide our budgets or the public that uses them.Professor Schank's post is an interesting aside, but I don't think it has much meaning for practitioners.

The perception problems aren't on the part of the libraries, they are on the part of the rest of the world thinking libraries are worthless. OUR problem is that they perceive us as being no longer needed because card catalogs aren't useful. This article, posted to the major educational administration magazine from someone with as much alphabet soup after his name as Schank is direct proof of our problem.

You had better bet that this has meaning for practitioners. Perception is reality. If the rest of the world perceives libraries to be worthless...then guess what?

I wouldn't disagree with the argument that we have a perception problem. I agree that we need to market our relevancy better to our patrons. No questions. And we as a profession have done a bad job of it in the past.Schank's piece doesn't seem to be about that.He makes a series of assertions without backing them up or citing evidence:"For generations, knowledge was contained in libraries, or so it seemed. But, in fact, this was never true."What is knowledge, in this statement? Who said it WAS true and who said it ISN'T true now?"Dewey Decimal System that helped searchers find books that had been properly catalogued. But we don’t need that stuff anymore, because we have Google. Search has gotten easier, but real knowledge hasn’t changed."It's a good deal more complicated than that and has a lot more to do with what people are willing to do to get information and what they are willing to settle for in return."Given that information retained from books can be measured, as can the sheer number of books read, school became a kind of competition to see who had retained the most. The winners go to Harvard."?????????????"We have got to get rid of the library metaphor or school will always be the same: an experience to be endured rather than relished."Got a better idea?This kind of article rubs me the wrong way. Dr. Schank is an impressively educated and accomplished man, but I resent a rock star professor descending from his tete a tete with the Burning Bush to tell all of us librarians and teachers how it's done.It's kind of like your dad the engineer waltzing into the kitchen on Thanksgiving, blithely telling your mom that she's not using the countertops as efficiently as possible, encouraging to do a space-use analysis between basting the turkey and starting a second pie. Yeah, thanks a lot, rarefied genius. If only we were as smart as you we could turn this thing around. What a jerk I've been, doing all this "work" everyday.Maybe libraries are not designed and used to work most efficiently with the way the human brain works.The world does not perceive libraries to be worthless. We have a PR problem. It's not the same thing, no matter what Professor Schank and his alphabet soup might think.