In Praise of Traditional Libraries

Some librarians like to disparage something they call the “traditional library.” The reasons vary depending on circumstances, and understanding the criticism is made more difficult because no one seems to agree on what a “traditional library” is.

This article speaks of traditional libraries rather than “the traditional library” because libraries vary widely, and the only fair way to discuss academic libraries is in generalities. There might be one single library somewhere that would embody everything “traditional,” but most libraries are amalgamations of changes over time. It’s only by looking at the whole that we can make such general statements about libraries.

Traditional academic libraries discovered problems and solved them, adapting to the demands of new scholarship, embracing new media of communication, and developing appropriate organizational and cooperative schemes, in a steady march of progress over the course of the twentieth century away from the tiny, inaccessible, and inadequate historical libraries that had preceded them.

Perhaps, as some now say, the traditional library is dead, which is not so, given the enormous benefit traditional libraries have provided for research and education in the country over the past century. If it is so, whatever replaces them is as successful at collecting information, organizing it, and making it as accessible and useful as possible to scholars and students as traditional libraries were. They were good things, traditional libraries, and we will miss them when they’re gone.

GIBS Information Centre / GIBSIC‘s insight:

Long live libraries!!!

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