This evening I went to a lecture by Leonard Kniffel, editor of American Libraries, at Salem College. It was hosted by the
Kniffel had to address a number of audiences: writers, librarians, a few students. As such, I’m capturing from an academic library worker perspective.
- It’s been about 20 years since he’s worked in a library, so he said that he was actually giving an outsider perspective.
- Talked about how technology changes the way we read. There’s a constant fight for attention, so a main theme to think about in editing is who would actually read it and in what format.
- Suggested that format might not matter. He asked why we read: for pleasure or for education?
- Not hard to find people who say they love libraries. Also not hard to find people who ask if libraries are necessary anymore.
- Suggested that forward thinking news editors are realizing we are looking for a new genre that takes advantage of the screen, rather than just copying print to the screen.
- Pointed out that the average age of a newspaper reader is 55 and rising and that huge numbers of young folks don’t look at papers at all.
- Suggests that people who are concerned about Googlization are those who think of libraries as warehouses with guardians.
- Said that as more formats arise, our role increases: we have more versions to preserve and we have to have the technology to support the formats.
- Then he launched into a string of stats about number of libraries, reference questions, funding, internet access, etc.
- Pointed out the value of databases, the precarious nature of ebooks.
- Suggested there’d be a day when people could get a list of reading, entirely customized, ready to be read in any format, from their library. It’s interesting because, for those using RSS readers, we’re getting most of that right now.
- Pointed out how much the internet has grown. Asked if this might increase or decrease people’s interest in a given research topic. Said that more hits would have increased his interest.
- Admires people can blog with regularity over time. But also pointed to the struggle that many of us talk about: choosing the right ones to read out of millions.
- Next week is National Library Week.
- Reading as an antidote to the isolation of the web. (Julie Andrews)
- Said that he didn’t think libraries were particularly Googlized.
- Talked a lot about false dichotomies: books vs. computers, food and books in the library
- Talked a little about crisis in school libraries.
- Successful librarians often have to stop doing what they love most. If you love working with children, but get promoted to management, you don’t work with children anymore.
- When asked to speculate on libraries in 25 years: not only do libraries have to embrace the role of “place” but also community activity and a new role.
- Favors the Chicago Public Library. Also really loves his corporate library for ALA. Talked about Knowledge Management System aspect of the library.
- Suggested that big box bookstores were creating comfortable library-like environments because we were abandoning it for online, technology driven focus.
- Said that it’s harder to get to do book readings in bookstores than in libraries.
- There’s an international comardere between librarians.
- He said Laura Bush said that if you’re a techie or if you’re a people person, go into librarianship–you’ll love it. These aren’t the qualifications we used to think about.
- “Go young people! That’s what I say.”
- Talked about how some countries are skipping the book phase. They can’t afford to do both books and tech, so they leap-frog into the internet age.
- Oprah has done more for reading and book sales… it’s phenomenal.
- Librarians have to be key players in their community. In the case of academic libraries, we have to be plugged in with faculty and academic administration.
- Bill Gates said his biggest disappointment in working with libraries is that he couldn’t get the media to cover it.
All in all it was a nice evening, and a great opportunity to see a national library leader, locally, and for free! Thanks to Salem!