Friday, October 13, 2006

Libraries - Alive and well beyond 2010

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at the AGM of the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) here in Bloemfontein. The talk centered around the future of libraries and if they will still be around after 2010 (2010 being the year that South Africa will be hosting the Soccer World Cup) There is a fear that technology will make libraries obsolete in the future.

Our world is changing at an incredible rate, libraries used to be seen as a place where books are kept. But this has changed and these days a library is a place where you can access knowledge.

This is an important thing to remember gone are the days that all knowledge was accessed in books. Technology has made it possible for us to absorb knowledge from various sources. In my view the library is not only there to store all this information or give access to this information but librarians are there to help us work through all this knowledge. The role of the librarian is a lot like that of a teacher. Someone to help make sense of it all, and teach you how to identify relevant and good information.

Our society is still to realise just what a vital role the library has in our daily lives. The library should be seen as a “knowledge hub”. To achieve this, the library should also be able to give access to information/ knowledge in each form that it can be obtained. Here I can mention books, magazines, newspapers but we should remember that through the Internet there are millions of resources from around the world that can be accessed quickly and easily. In my view one of the main resources that each and every library should have is an Internet connection.

When looking at a computer so many people see it as an evil machine, there just to make your life a living hell. We say that technology is making our lives harder but we forget that a book, is also a technological wonder. When we say that technology will kill books we are so wrong because again, books are technology! Remember also that books are more than just a few pieces of paper put together with a cover. There is a whole tactile experience when you read a book, the smell the feel everything makes reading a book a wonderful experience.

The Internet is there just to give people more access to information and knowledge and we need to use it in each and every library to get people to become writers themselves. Each one of us has a story in us. Well at least one good story. We need to get people to the point where they start to write about their lives and experiences. Getting people to write their own history is vital as history books are written about so many things but very seldom it is a reflection of the people in the communities.

A 90 year old grandmother who had more live experience than most of us now has the opportunity and the means to tell her life story and share it with the world. This can be done with a blog, it is free it is easy and it quick. As more and more people start to know about blogs and more of them start to write we are also increasing our resources. The knowledge of the community is more powerful than all the books in a single library.

The important part of course is that blogs can be created in any language. Often I hear people complain that there are nothing online in their own language. I then quickly ask them if they are writing a blog online and if they are writing in their own language. Most often than not they tell me that they are not doing anything online. Now my question is; “Who’s job do we think it is to create content in our own languages online?” Is it not our responsibility? Should we not take the lead and get people online, get them writing in their own languages? Will that not solve the problem?

There are so many free technologies available online that could change the lives of so many people. All we have to do is teach our communities how to use it and inspire them to start.

The library is the only place where this will be possible, so let’s get started. Let’s give our communities a voice and a presence online, and let’s build our communities. The future of our country depends on our people having access to the internet, and they need to be taught.

Libraries will be alive and well past 2010, but we need to realise that this can only be achieved through technology, and our willingness to become educators as that is what we are here for.

But what do you think?


At 5:04 AM, Anonymous DEWAPOKER said...


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