Seth Godin starts his post with a bit of librarianship background, with an interesting definition of the library as 'warehouse for books worth sharing'. I wouldn't actually agree with that in the slightest - it's insanely simplistic. He then makes the claim that we then invented the librarian. See previous comment. Continue though, because it's worth it. "Wikipedia and the huge databanks of information have basically eliminated the library as the best resource for anyone doing amateur research (grade school, middle school, even undergrad)." Well yes, and I don't agree with that at all either. He's confusing the resource with the application of it. If you have a computer and don't know how to use it, you've got a grey box and television screen that doesn't work.
However, he redeems himself and goes onto say "They need a librarian more than ever (to figure out creative ways to find and use data). They need a library not at all. When kids go to the mall instead of the library, it's not that the mall won, it's that the library lost. "
This is where things get interesting. He then goes on to point out that ebooks and their attendant devices are getting cheaper by the second, and for librarians to lobby for clever ebook lending solutions are completely missing the point. Of course they're not - we can only work with what we've got where we're at, which at the moment is trying to sort this whole thing out to the advantage of library, author and publisher - to say nothing of the reader! He then bemoans the fact that we're defending the library as a warehouse, rather than fighting for the future. Can't we do both?
The next key point is that he says, and I like this one 'The library is no longer a warehouse for dead books'. Please! Get over the 'dead books', 'dead tree' references - they're boring and while they appear intended to make the writer look hip and cool and perhaps even vaguely shocking, they just make you look like a jerk. If you can't come up with something new (and Seth is a good enough writer to do so - he's just too damn lazy to bother), just don't go there. Really, it's not a good look.
But - finally and inexorably, he starts to make some good points. I knew they were in there somewhere, and we're finally getting to them. The librarian should be the one to teach kids how to get better grades while doing less grunt work, or to teach a class on their passion because it's fun. The librarian should take responsibility for any child who graduates without being a first rate data shark. He also says that 'the next library is filled with so many web terminals there's always at least one empty'. Well, yes and good... but he's really lacking vision here. Where is the library that's really into mobile tech? Providing resources for creating good quality YouTube videos? Where are the sound proof rooms for podcasting? For helping people become their own authors, agents and publishers? For becoming publishers themselves?
I do however cheer at the last paragraph, and that makes up for the whole mess of the rest of the blog "We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime."
Well, other than the 'dead paper' reference, obviously. There's a lot in the blog post that I disagree with, but he's going in vaguely the right direction, even if he is meandering around rather a lot. It's worth reading. I would also suggest that you read Bobbi Newman's post which is referenced below. I think she's spot on with her comments.