Ken Balsley on TRL, take 2

First post on Ken’s thoughts.

Ken’s post on the district’s executive director hiring process branches off into a general discussion about the role of a library in the information (internet) age. This quote I think pretty much sums up his take, but I’d suggest reading the entire post.

Just like everything else in our society, libraries have been significantly changed by new technology making its way into the mainstream of society.

Children no longer have to go to the library to do research.  They don’t even have to leave their homes.  Public schools have been cutting library services and staff because of finances, but also because technology has made libraries almost obsolete.

Whomever the library system hires to be its new director that person must understand how technology has changed libraries.  He, or she, doesn’t need a degree in library science, but an understand of society and how it relates to library services.

Libraries should be getting smaller, more stand alone kiosks, maybe a return of the bookmobile to large apartment complexes.  Those are all new concepts for libraries and the new library director should look for these changes and others.  They must meet the needs of the people.

I don’t think you’d be able to find a competent library professional in the country that doesn’t take seriously how technology has changed libraries. But, I don’t agree with Ken’s assessment of how libraries should be focussed.

Students still do and should use library services to do research. Depending on what is known as the surface web for research is simply short sighted. On the other hand, the deep web is massive, and to most people, no accessible.

How big? This big:

  • Public information on the deep Web is currently 400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined World Wide Web.
  • The deep Web contains 7,500 terabytes of information compared to nineteen terabytes of information in the surface Web.
  • The deep Web contains nearly 550 billion individual documents compared to the one billion of the surface Web.
  • As more an more information moves onto the internet, we need to be reminded the traditional role of a library isn’t necessarily access to books. Its democratizing access to information. In the 1800s, most off limits information and data was in the form of expensive books. Hardly anyone had enough money to purchase books, so public and free libraries were established.

    Now, the internet is democratizing information all over again, but a lot of the best information is behind closed doors. Libraries not only open those doors, but through the human resources of what are being call cybrarians, a community based/wired/reference detective, libraries knock down walls.

    I tend to agree with Ken that we can do a great job expanding traditional library services (like access to books and portable digital media) through kiosks, but I would tend to disagree with his opposition to newer and larger library buildings.

    In many small towns (and mid-sized cities) libraries serve the role of third place. Not work, not home, but a community gathering place. Libraries are more than a place to pick up a book and use a computer. Simply put, you need large enough buildings to serve this role, and I don’t think Olympia’s current library building serves much more than its minimum role. I could say more, but there’s a lot written about this concept of library as third place.



    Filed under Chat from the community

    4 responses to “Ken Balsley on TRL, take 2

    1. Brian

      Whenever I hear someone say how the Internet has rendered public libraries obsolete, I have to wonder whether they’ve spent much time either in libraries or on the Internet.

      With regard to the former, public library use has surged, especially with the economic downturn. And concerning the latter, the quality of most information on the open Internet leaves much to be desired, and I haven’t seen any indication that your average user has become better equipped to distinguish reliable information from the spurious or to locate answers to specific queries amid the deluge. If anything, the sheer volume and varying quality of information on the web have made qualified information professionals more vital, not less so.

    2. I had a big long rant started in my head as I was reading your quotes from Ken, but Brian sums it up quite nicely: “the sheer volume and varying quality of information on the web have made qualified information professionals more vital, not less so” 🙂

    3. kelsey

      I seriously wonder when Ken Balsey last visited a library. I can’t imagine he’d set foot in my branch and still think that non-virtual library services aren’t being used.

    4. Pingback: Ken Balsley on Timberland, take 3 « supports an active, informed community

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