Monday, September 15, 2008

Concern about "books" brand since 1969

As we all know from OCLC research, people associate libraries with books. Our "brand" is books. This is a source of frustration to many who know that libraries are so much more. But this frustration isn't new. While researching a completely unrelated topic at the Alaska State Archives, I came across a February 12, 1969 letter to State Librarian Dick Engen from Mrs. Jane Williams at the University of Alaska. Mrs Williams was aghast that a recent study of libraries in Alaska failed to touch on A/V materials:

Even tho Phylis Dalton said she would not be able to include much on film libraries in the PAS report I am surprised, chagrined, and down-right angry that nothing - absolutely nothing, was done in this area. Perhaps it was all an afterthought. The whole idea of the new type of Resource Center! Bah! It does not come through in this PAS Report at all. Are we so lock-stepped that we cannot even recognize the approximately two million dollar investment in this state in resource materials -- OTHER THAN BOOKS?

Mrs Williams then discusses current and future technologies including video by satellite and the "Electronic Video Tape Recorder." She then takes the report writers to task for not mentioning:

All the necessary items for a magnificent book library system in Alaska. It did not bear home or suggest enough of a radical innovation toward the trend for "Information Centers", let us not be bashful or reticent to use the word "film" and any other media at every chance we have. Otherwise we drive only deeper that "books" alone is, what we mean.

The letter closes by linking use of new media to creating interest in books, proving that Mrs. Williams was not anti-book, just against being book only. Thirty-nine years later, we seem to be in a similar spot.



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