Through various 501-related readings, I’ve seen all of the different ways that people will find to say why we don’t really need libraries. Or some variant. We don’t need libraries if they’re just going to become political (never mind the fact that, oh, everything can be politicized, from corporations to education) or we don’t need libraries because people are just going to download everything for free off the internet or we don’t need libraries because people are just going to use the internet to find…
Blah, blah, blah.
I’m really tired of hearing arguments like this, honestly. Coupled with the “oh, I didn’t realize you needed a degree for that” response to my chosen profession that I’ve gotten (several times lately, though I’m more willing to give high school aged coworkers the pass when they say things like that because they’re young and just might genuinely not know things, because nobody really tells them said things) I’m genuinely just starting to wonder why people are so afraid of properly understanding things.
Information is a commodity. Period. And yes, people can get on Google to get the basics of what they’re looking for, but just because WebMD exists doesn’t mean we don’t need doctors, too. (I’m not knocking WebMD, mind. While I’ve heard the story about the person who gets on to look up innocuous symptoms and comes away thinking they have a terminal illness, I personally have only ever used the site to confirm suspicions or help me figure out what further professional treatment I might need to seek.) Just because Amazon exists doesn’t mean we don’t also need to go to Fred Meyer sometimes. Etcetera.
And thanks in part to some of those articles, it’s recently occurred to me that people saying we don’t need libraries aren’t always realizing, or perhaps are even outright unconcerned, with who uses libraries. I mean, everyone uses libraries, but also there’s the issue that we keep getting into of haves and have nots. I volunteer in a small medical library, but we still have community members coming in and asking if they can use the computer to print out information about their health issue and while they’re here could they maybe use it to apply for a job? I won’t go so far as to say that people saying we don’t need libraries outright want to deny information access to the have nots, but… maybe there’s something to that, also. Sometimes. We don’t need libraries because information, a commodity, should perhaps be privatized. In their opinions.
And at the risk of sounding like I’ve gone on a crazy spiral, I would also ask: if librarianship was a more traditionally “masculine” profession, would it have the same cultural weight? If the stereotypical librarian was middle-aged-to-old white man doling out knowledge to those who sought it out and asking people to be quiet instead of a middle-aged-to-old white woman doing the same, would people see it as being unnecessary and not something you should really need a specialized degree to do? I won’t go off on this further, but it does make me wonder.
I guess the point of this post is: watch out world, here comes a wild feminist librarian to give your precious information to anyone who wants or needs it.