Got the new ALA catalog in the mail yesterday, and my 3-year-old son was going through each page yelling: “READ! READ! READ! READ! READ!” through each spread of READ posters. His take: “This is a FUNNY magazine. Why does it say READ so much?”
OCLC’s recent “Perceptions” report notes that 70% of respondents identified the library “brand” with books. I don’t think this surprised anyone — and, in my heart of hearts, if someone demanded from me an instant one-word association with libraries, “books” it would be. (And yup, I’m a degreed librarian. Yup, I’m a Library 2.0 believer. Yup, I’ve been a systems librarian, and go to my local libary partly for the free wireless access, and have worked in a public library spending rainy Saturdays watching patron after patron make a beeline for our Internet terminals, with DVD rentals running a close second.)
But I’m also one of those people who went into librarianship partly because I love books. Yes, I said it. And one of the things I miss most about working in a public library is walking into work each day and heading through the stacks to get to my desk, knowing I had a part in getting some of those books onto the shelves. Working surrounded by books is in some ways as nice as living surrounded by mountains… but I digress.
So anyway, I see people talking about the OCLC report and other surveys reaffirming our bookish associations and wondering what we can do to change those perceptions. To them I say: “Good luck.” Maybe we’re all going to turn into “Idea Stores,” but I’m noting that even their reports say they’ve “doubled spending on books in recent years.” Do we really want to mess with a brand this powerful? Or can we work on being books AND… like what our friends at B&N et al have done with books AND coffee.
On that note, back to some Dean Koontz (OK, I said “books,” not great literature…) in my smelly hotel room in lovely Saint George, Utah, where I’m speaking at the ULA conference in the morning. This post caps off a day of minor travel annoyances, culminating in getting stuck in a smoking room for the night. But, the hills are gorgeous, and, luckily, I brought some books!