New Modern Librarians ™ like to claim that libraries are “more” than “just” what they carry, one of those self-evident statements that needs to be examined in its current context to discern the actual meaning, to wit, “Let’s stop collecting anything that falls outside the middle of the bell curve culturally and intellectually, and get rid of our quiet study spaces to boot.”
However, patrons have known the truth for years, namely, that public libraries’ value traditionally lies in its three unique offerings: a special space conducive to concentration; knowledgeable staff whose determination, compassion, and personal engagement empower patrons to learn or grow as individuals; collections that contain not only popular items that patrons might expect to find, but that contain items that patrons might not expect to find, because discovery is the heart of learning.
A post I’m about to reblog illustrates this principle, and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the librarians who did collection development work at the Orlando Public Library during the late 80s and early 90s, too. The diversity of the Orlando PL’s collections introduced me to bands I would never have heard on the radio, art I would never have seen in textbooks, novels I didn’t know to seek on the shelves of my local bookstores, and ideas that helped make sense of my life experiences in ways that were utterly novel to me. A lot of what happens here at this very Tumblr happens because of material I discovered–by chance, not through known-item searching, contrary to current professional wisdom–at the Orlando Public Library at that time. I am who I am today because the public library did not just contain the 80s equivalent of James Patterson and One Direction, because it contained “academic” materials, and because it contained the old, the weird, and the unique.
Thank you to the Orlando Public Library for making me the old, weird, and (hopefully) unique person I am today.