Librarians of the old-garde (old as in “in the past”, not as in age) viewed themselves as gate-keepers and protectors of The Collection. They were neutral and impersonal; mere representatives of a vaunted institution and its secret processes and bureaucracy. Their service was frequently equal but not equitable, and they were not known to be especially personable. The new-garde is different; we love people and books (in that order), we have unique and individual personalities which we use to serve our communities better, and we prefer to provide access rather than restrict it.
Library institutions, too, have become more personable and transparent. Many are reducing or removing fines and instituting amnesty months to decrease barriers to access. They are also encouraging librarians to step out from behind their desk and meet people where they are. To help with that are initiatives like mobile libraries, and specially-designed bikes to bring learning and smiles to residents who may not be aware of the breadth of library services.
I’ve loved libraries since young. Trotting to the nearby one yielded 8 books that was devoured in a week or less. Utilising the other family members’ library cards meant more books could be borrowed. JOY!
When studying overseas, one of the first places I would head to were the universities’ libraries. In a new country, it exuded familiarity.
As I do not regularly pass by a library, I try not to borrow physical books in case fines are incurred. Thankfully the library offers ebooks. Auto-returns when due dates arrive.
That all being said, the article has great links to other initiatives done by libraries in USA. Especially the one on removing overdue fines which potentially is a model other libraries can follow.
Long live libraries!