To me, a library is:
- a set of items;
- selected for a particular reason;
Historically, the reason why certain items would be selected for a library was that they were considered to be “the best reading” (Wiegand, 1999, p. 5) for the communities served by the library. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, librarians perceived “the best reading” to be a mandate to “elevate the popular taste” (p. 9); today, I would assert that best does not mean imposing a moral judgment on the content but instead reflects an emphasis on providing the best coverage of a particular area or issue within a collection.
- and which are available to a particular community.
Although Buckland (2003) rightfully points out that communities are comprised of many different sub-communities, my point here that the resources within a library are meant to be used, and used communally.
In other words, librarianship means:
- curating purposefully, based on an understanding of those served by the library and what they need.
- Ensuring access. Unlike the earliest libraries, libraries today are not storehouses. Users need to have ways of knowing what is in a collection, and how to get access, whether through a catalog, finding aids, or other resources.
- Because the resources within a library are shared, librarianship involves responsible stewardship of resources, both fiscally and in terms of security and preservation.
What do you think?
Buckland, M.K. (Spring 2003). Five grand challenges for library research. Library Trends, 51(4), p. 675-686.
Wiegand, W.A. (January 1999). Tunnel vision and blind spots. Library Quarterly, 69(1), p. 1-32.