What are some public libraries in Bangalore

Contemporary library work
It's about people, not media

Libraries create the future. Your own is uncertain. Start of the "Future Libraries" series about the libraries of tomorrow.

By Leonard Novy

It wasn't long ago that the book was considered the gateway to the world. And if you wanted to go through this gate, there was hardly a way past the library. Here knowledge was collected, made accessible and made accessible. Today, in the age of Google, Wikipedia and millions and millions of digitally available books and magazines, all knowledge in the world seems to be just a few clicks away from your own smartphone, laptop or e-reader. Do we still need libraries there? Or will libraries and librarians foreseeably join the long list of those services and job profiles that people will soon tell themselves about, that the disruptive power of digitization has swept them away? The debate on these issues is in full swing. It oscillates between decline rhetoric and optimism, and it eludes simple answers. The developments and challenges involved are too different, too complex and sometimes contradictory.

There is no such thing as a library

At first glance, libraries don't seem to be in bad shape: Despite the ubiquity of digital media, Germans use both university libraries and public libraries more intensively than ever. Around 220 million visits a year make them one of the most popular cultural institutions in the country - ahead of museums, cinemas and the stadiums of the German Bundesliga. In addition: the diversity of around 10,000 public and academic libraries in Germany is still enormous. If the scientific libraries, which are enjoying huge numbers of visitors, are primarily concerned with the acquisition and production of knowledge, in many city and community libraries more and more importance is attached to the quality of stay and encounters. The functional equipment of the former lending stations has given way to comfortable seating, in many places cafés invite you to linger, readings and a wide range of events round off the offer.

Discontinued model or restructuring case?

Sociologists attribute the renaissance of libraries to their function as non-commercial “third places” (Ray Oldenburg) beyond living and working - and to the longing to disconnect from a globalized and networked world. For some they are a place of retreat, for others they make participation in cultural and public life possible in the first place - regardless of income. Because of their non-commercial character, which is open to all, public libraries in particular are considered a factor in democracy. That's the theory. The political and economic realities that many libraries are confronted with often speak a different, crisis-ridden language. That wouldn't even have required digitization. The factual erosion of the library began long before the Internet became a mass medium. The dictate of empty public coffers, for example, brought massive austerity constraints to libraries. The budgets for new acquisitions and equipment have shrunk, staff have been reduced, and opening times have been shortened. Mergers and closings of libraries have been the order of the day in recent years. And so a series of sensational new library openings in major German cities cannot hide the fact that many of their little sisters in the provinces are often worn out. No wonder then that the impression arises that the idea of ​​the library is past its prime. Refurbishment case or phase-out model - who can tell the difference?

Move and preserve

The performance demands made on them have meanwhile not diminished, the tasks more extensive and varied. In addition to books, electronic media, music, games and films have long been loaned out. But where everything is available online from anywhere and at any time, libraries can no longer derive their raison d'etre from the provision of information. It is becoming more and more important to impart skills to people regardless of age and social background to deal with the flood of available information in a qualified manner. Libraries are actually predestined for this. But they need the appropriate material and economic resources and, last but not least, a changed self-image. Instead of classic functions such as existing work, the focus is on working with the users. "Libraries are about people, not stuff," says US library expert Rebekkah Smith Aldrich. It's about people, not media. Actually a matter of course, but for some representatives of the guild this means a change of thought. Skeptics, on the other hand, fear that with all the necessary changes, something will also be lost, the focus on the printed word, the book, for example. The accusation of "eventization" is in the room, the arbitrariness.
In the face of a rapidly changing environment, developing contemporary spatial, media and educational strategies without throwing overboard what constitutes their success is no easy task for libraries. Knowledge stores and cultural heritage, educational establishments and meeting places, physical space and ideas - libraries were and are always many things at the same time and yet, depending on their purpose and target audience, very different. Most of all, they're good for surprises. This is what Michael Knoche, until 2016 director of the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, wrote in his 2017 book “The Idea of ​​the Library and its Future”. By this he meant that users also encounter content and topics here that they were not looking for. And this "beyond the well-established search algorithms and the beaten track of knowledge" as the Internet has in store for us. Libraries can rightly be described as pre-Google search engines, but they have always been more than that, more than tools.

Libraries create the future

According to experts, especially in view of a changing world and exponentially growing knowledge, libraries are more important than ever for the cohesion of a society and its ability to find answers to new challenges. So you can say: if libraries didn't already exist, they would have to be invented. However, they would probably look different from those places that have been entrusted to the current generation of librarians as places of work. How must the design, architecture and design of libraries change when the focus is no longer on the inventory, but on the user? What do contemporary articles on democratic participation and media literacy look like in times of growing inequality, fake news and digital manipulation? What can libraries do to interest educationally disadvantaged sections of the population in what they offer? And what role will librarians play in the future?

Question after question. Taken together, they create the picture of an industry and a public good in transition. There are no simple answers or patent recipes as to how libraries can continue to meet all the expectations placed on them in the future. And so their future is determined on the one hand by whether each individual facility succeeds in reinterpreting its role for society while it is still in operation. On the other hand, the question of what they are worth to us as a society.

Since its inception in 2009, the Next Library® Conference has become one of the most important conferences on the future of public libraries. It will take place in Berlin for the first time in September 2018. The Goethe-Institut is taking this as an opportunity to document challenges, trends and success stories relating to the future of the library in a series over the next few weeks.