What’s in a name?

I have already changed the name of the blog (and may yet again). I am very picky with words. Especially when it comes to something as important as a title. The problem is, there can be so many layers of meaning – and I feel the need to make sure that all of them are suitable.

I like ‘(R)evolutionary Librarian’ as it sounds and looks good; it is short and memorable, and is quite fitting in the current climate of the library profession. It also doesn’t imply or suggest a presumption that I am by any means an expert (as I am not)… Instead, it highlights the fact that I am both passionate about, and an advocate for, the evolution of libraries and the role of the librarian.

My only issue takes me back to original concerns that I am restricting myself to library, and not encompassing ‘learning’… libraries can be integral to learning, but they are not the only avenue. If I feel it too restricting though, I can always become the ‘(R)evolutionary Learner’ in the future? Is that not the point of evolution… embracing change and changing definitions?

And that brings me to my first point of discussion, necessary vs. unnecessary change.

Should a library still be called a library?

I know the school of thought varies here. There are many alternatives being thrown about, especially in education (high schools, universities, etc.) where libraries are being given new names to accommodate their evolving nature. I’ve heard ‘information centre’, ‘resource centre’, ‘learning centre’, ‘commons’, ‘learning commons’, ‘learning hub’, and the list goes on. Is this not creating more confusion though?

The traditional definition of ‘library’ indicates that it refers to a collection of resources that are housed in one location and available for people to view or borrow, as well as defining the building or institution that houses such resources. Instead of changing the title of a library, however, and confusing the matter by creating numerous variations of a new title… does it not makes sense to adjust or extend upon the definition of library?

The way that we learn and more specifically the ways in which we access and use information has changed. But it is still learning. It is still accessing information. Technology has enabled library collections to evolve and change, and as such, the physical and virtual spaces needed to suitably access and use this information also changes. The library has always been a place where people can access and utilise information, where they can learn, and where services are provided to help them do so… So, why do we want to stop calling the facilities that continue to offer this a ‘library’?

Several local high schools are making more effort to bring additional ‘services’ into the library, with careers advisors, teaching and learning specialists, and executive staff being relocated to offices in libraries. I think this is great, it is enabling students to access information for varying aspects of their education in the one location. It also brings students who may usually avoid the library into the library space, thus creating a sense of familiarity. Does this support the need for a name change, perhaps an information or learning centre? Or does the fact the students are coming to this space to access and use information, where the people themselves are a resource, still allow the definition of ‘library’ to apply? A collection of resources and a place to access and use them.

Libraries are changing. That is the nature of our world. Change is a constant, it always has been. Rapid technological advancements is no longer something that current generations are in awe of, it is simply the way it is (of course the new iPhone or Samsung will be out within 12 months, and of course it will be better than the last!).

When we take it back to the bare bones though, a library may not look the same as it did in decades past, but it is still a library.


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