I write this on the longest night of the year. From here on out, the days get longer rather than the nights. I think we can all get behind that. So this has me thinking about the long night for libraries. I think we can all agree that we’ve been in a long night. But are we through it yet? Unfortunately, I think not:
- Not until we completely wake up to where we stand. In a nutshell: beset from all sides, both programmatically and financially.
- Not until we understand the kind of deep, systemic changes that will be required to move into the light. Do you still think you are about collecting books and journals? If so, you are so toast.
- Not until we really get what the new program requires. Content your patrons want — when and where and how they want it. Plus, a place they want to be, whether you sit at the center of a campus or a town.
- Not until the staff of every library is on board with the program. This is one of the toughest requirements to meet, as few libraries can wipe the slate clean and hire from scratch. So instead, we must work hard to retool our existing staff, to inculcate in them the motivation they require, the perspective they need, and the skills they should have.
In the end, I remain an optimist. I’m the kind of person who will go down fighting. I will certainly go down fighting for libraries. Libraries are a societal good, even in these days of what seems like ubiquitous access to digital information. Access to information is not ubiquitous, nor equal, nor (still) as easy as it can or should be.
It may seem like we are going into that dark night, but I prefer to believe — and will work hard to make real the fact — that we are in the darkest point before the dawn.
So here I sit, in the night that is the longest of the year, knowing that tomorrow’s dawn will come sooner, and brighter, than before. Are you with me?