This was originally published in a slightly different format on my personal blog.
There’s been another development in the discussion about socially conscious library futures.
It started with Matt’s discussion post about e-books in libraries with Connor Tomas O’Brien. Connor’s comments in A very quiet battle: librarians, publishers, and the Pirate Bay “The public library, in other words, is nowhere near obsolete. In some cases, it’s more important than ever” prompted Matt to ask him “What do you think a public library should be doing in 2013?” Connor offers the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne as an example. It looks like an amazing space with lots of exciting events. Great for people who live in the city. Which was the theme of Matt’s next comments about rural libraries and the concerns he has around equity of service for people who choose to live there.
I storifyed the resulting Twitter discussion. I left out a few tweets that were related to the original question about ebooks as they broke the flow of the main discussion. I refrained from adding too much editorial comment as I believed that the tweets would speak for themselves. Matt thought up a way that author visits could expand into Melbourne suburbs while still delivering foot traffic into the Centre.
His response made me furious. It’s the same attitude that I saw in the ALIA Futures discussion paper (1 May 2013) – omission of any comments regarding their indigenous population; convergence to large urban centres – plus it’s got some weird arguments in it. (Read Smarter than you think by Clive Thompson and in the first 50 pages it tells us that more people are writing than ever before. We’re blogging, tweeting, writing fan fiction, writing emails, commenting on Facebook status updates, RANTING etc etc. Not “When you’re writing in a regional area, that culture can be lacking, making it infinitely more likely that prospective writers will never open their word processor in the first place.“) It seems to me that Connor’s piece is written with a narrow definition of who is a ‘writer’. It makes me think that he works towards the funders, not towards the community. The ALIA document at least had an excuse – their paper was “intended to engage, excite, and provoke.” I have no idea what Connor is trying to build – except maybe arguments to keep the status quo.
And all this on a day when I was pointed toward Sometimes The ‘Tough Teen’ Is Quietly Writing Stories by Matt de la Peña which has one of the best arguments for taking authors and events to under-served areas whether it be schools, suburbs, or regions. This is who I want to be working for, and with for my library future.