Table Talk: The Library – “an organized collection of sources of information …”

I have to say, I never would have guessed I’d someday work in a library. As much as I loved our local library growing up, as much as I loved to read … ever, growing up it never occurred to me that I could actually work in a library. It never crossed my mind and I have no idea why.

Well, I love it. I’m not sure if I want to actually work as a librarian, but I love this field. This … information field (which I’ll explain sometime soon because I just realized this is a topic for another post).

Working in the library, I’ve heard some very interesting comments ranging from “I love libraries” to “libraries are obsolete” to “wait, you guys don’t help us type our resumes?” Which leads me to think that libraries mean different things to different people. And when lines get blurred and the meanings get vague, I tend to go to the root of things. So, as defined by Wikipedia, a library is:

an organized collection of sources of information and similar sources, made accessible to a defined community for referencing or borrowing.

You see that? Sources of information and similar sources? No where in that definition does it say that a library is a place to house and/or store books.  Books, however, hold information and since libraries are organized collections of sources of information … there you go.

I say this because at one point in history, books were the de facto source of information. You had oral history and then you had written history ranging from symbols on cave walls to rolls of parchment with scribbles to the printed press and books. And guess what? Your library, till this day, still has an oral source of information (e.g. the librarian and/or his/her assistants) as well as written sources of information (e.g. books and magazines).

And now you have the internet and online databases to add to those “sources of information” and someone who can show you how to use those sources (hint: the librarian and/or the reference staff)

I could write turn this into another “Are libraries obsolete?” post/article, but that is for another day. I simply wanted to clarify exactly what a library is.

Is it really that important to “clarify” it?

I think it is. I think there is a disconnect between what society thinks a library is and what it actually is. Whether it’s because we’re getting swept up in this fast paced, digital age or because libraries have been a bit slow to re-image or redefine themselves is yet another debate for another day, but for now, I’ll just start with a definition.

Libraries are information centers and the key word here is information, not books. Yes, libraries have movies and audio books and CDs which may or may not be educational, but if nothing else don’t they hold information? The definition of library doesn’t say the sources of information has to be educational. So I ask again, does a movie have some sense of information on it? Or maybe a CD? Yes. Yes, they do.

And while we’re on this topic, let’s define information as well. Wikipedia says information is:

that which informs i.e. an answer to a question, as well as that which knowledge and data can be derived .

I love that. “That which informs, such as an answer to a question” and “that which knowledge and data can be derived.”

Hm, why was Seinfeld such a popular TV show? Let’s borrow Season 1 of Seinfeld from the library.

Harry Potter had 7 books! I’ll just borrow the movies from the library.

What kind of music did the Eagles play?

Who is the latest and greatest jazz artist?

What in the world is New Age music?

All the answers to these questions can be found at a library, especially if you don’t feel like pay $1.29 for song or piece of music you may not like or $4.99 rental fee for a movie you may not care for. Generally, libraries provide this all to you for free or an even lower fee than that.

I can just do an internet search. No biggie.

Well, you’re right. But that’s another argument and debatable subject and my goal right now is to simply define library.

So, there you have it. Libraries. Information centers. Just so you know.

One thought on “Table Talk: The Library – “an organized collection of sources of information …”

  1. Table Talk: You need a degree to be a Librarian? | 411 Junkie

    […] Sure, the main reason someone comes into the library now days is for entertainment; they want to rent the most recent movie or borrow the most popular book on the New York Times Bestseller’s list, but the heart of the library is information. No matter the vessel providing that information and if you missed it, I provide a pretty thorough definition (at least, I think so 😉 ) of what a library is here. […]


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