They are called "human libraries".
In my village, that was always called "to sit down and talk to someone".
It is very sad to see how some basic human values ―human interaction, conversation, exchange of knowledge and affection, closeness, solidarity, understanding― are disappearing in an increasingly impoverished and weakened society.
But it is even worst to see how, instead of pointing out these issues and doing something to solve them (and, at the same time, criticizing the causes that brought us to this unfortunate state of things), we produce proposals and ideas that are anything but sad and poor "patches" to the problem. And on top of that, these ideas become a fashion, a trending topic, a series of hashtags ― they present themselves as very advanced and revolutionary novelties.
And some libraries, of course, hurry to embrace such "novelties"... especially because of their eternal fear of falling behind in something (another plague of our modern times).
No, they are not "human libraries". It's called "sit and chat". And it is notthing new: I do not know in yours, but in my town, we invented this stuff centuries ago. And without any need for hashtags.
[And if in your library you want to do something about it, dear colleague, start by chatting with your users as they approach the counter, and stop treating them as objects. Trust me: it is an excellent habit (you may even like it!) And it sets a very good example].
"Developing a service robot for a children's library" is an article published in 2014 in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. The article has been widely disseminated and celebrated through blogs, social networks and international librarian discussion forums, since it seems to show the bright future of libraries and LIS.
Apparently, there are countries in the world where there are no librarians available: all of them have very good jobs. To fill vacancies in libraries, they are forced to build robots.
Or it may be that in these countries librarians (particularly children's librarians) are so bad at doing their jobs, they have such mediocre qualities and poor backgrounds, that they prefer their children to grow up socializing with a machine when they visit a library, instead of dealing with human beings.
Or, maybe, we librarians are being replaced by more manageable, efficient and economical machinery, while at the same time getting our younger generations to grow up interacting with screens and robots. We prepare them for that utopian future in which we will be almost-cybernetic, almost immortal organisms, and we will live in space, among the stars.
All this, it seems, looks very promising for the future of librarianship as a discipline, and for that of its workers and professionals. And, of course, for the entire Humankind.
[What about a little analysis of necessities and possibilities first? What about some critical thought, some ethical evaluation, some professional multidisciplinary discussion? What about evaluating if everything looking "shiny", "roboty", "modern"• and "techy" may be actually useful, helpful, healthy and good for libraries and their users, before blindly embracing it? Or are these too many questions to answer, in a world more and more used to go fast and not to lose time, not even to answer vital questions?]
Reading some LIS-related blogs and columns last week, I started to suspect that many librarians have the bad habit of getting certain things (fashions, trends, novelties, theories, ideas...) in closed "packages". They rarely look at what those packages bring inside. And if they dare to open them and look, they seldom dare to question, evaluate or consider if those contents are really useful, if they actually need them.
It could be said that they lack some criteria. Or a bit of courage?
Another bad habit? To imitate, to follow the "referents." The library X doing such and such or the guru Y recommending it does not mean that the rest has the obligation to imitate them, no matter how big that library is, no matter how successful that guru may be. They may lack criteria and good sense. Or their results (which are rarely described with contexts, objectives and other details) may be all wrong... or be "sold" as successes: after all, "cooking" statistics is not strange to our profession ― "selling" successes that do not exist to achieve certain objectives (and obtain certain budgets?) is not uncommon.
In short: after my (many and diverse) readings, I got the feeling that many librarians suffer the "herd syndrome": they follow the guide sheep, the one that carries the bell to the neck, blindly.
But the sheep with the bell sometimes leads the herd to the pastures. And others, to the slaughterhouse.
About the posts
Texts: Edgardo Civallero.
Las entradas pertenecientes a la serie de notas Conocimiento y biosfera pueden leerse aquí, junto a las de las series Apuntes críticos y Gotas de animación a la lectura. Asimismo pueden consultarse las distintas entradas de las columnas Palabras ancladas, Los muchos caminos, Palabras habitadas y Libros y lecturas indígenas.
Por último, las conferencias, los artículos académicos y otros trabajos similares pueden consultarse a través del listado completo de publicaciones, o bien revisando el archivo de Acta Académica (de acceso libre) o las plataformas Academia.edu, Issuu, Scribd y Calameo.