Libraries – Why Bother?
Alice Crawford considers why we should bother with libraries in the twenty-first century. In an internet-dominated age, surrounded by our smartphones and tablets, with the answers to everything blinking at us from our touchscreens, and with pretty much anything we might want to read e-published to us instantly, do we really need them or their librarians anymore? The paper will look at the ways in which librarians in both public and academic sectors in the UK are attempting to analyse and valorize their roles, and will show how they are working hard to adapt their services to the needs of their changing – possibly shifting and disappearing – customer base. It will suggest that while studies might well predict a diminishing role for libraries in a digital age, we retain an emotional attachment to them which is likely to ensure that they last. Places of inspiration and safety, places which move us to “think big,” libraries somehow compel us to bother about them. Constantly changing, and in the end defying our attempts to analyse and justify them, they are an emotional necessity which we feel we must keep.
Dr Alice Crawford is Digital Humanities Research Librarian at the University of St Andrews Library where her role is to raise the Library’s profile in the field of Digital Humanities and to work with the Special Collections Division to initiate a range of digitisation projects. She has worked previously at the University of Glasgow where she was a subject librarian, and at the University of Dundee where she was a senior administrator. Her publications include Paradise Pursued: the Novels of Rose Macaulay (Associated University Presses, 1995) and New Directions for Academic Liaison Librarians (Chandos, 2012). Her edited book, The Meaning of the Library: a Cultural History, was published by Princeton University Press in 2015.