Rick Anderson, Associate Dean for Scholarly Resources & Collections in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah, regularly posts to The Scholarly Kitchen. Here he considers how libraries could be pushed to the fringes of society, or at least academic libraries.
I’m growing more and more uncomfortable with comparing the public economy with the private. Comparing libraries (or government or non-profit charities) to businesses makes little sense given that the ultimate goals of each kind of entity are very different. Admittedly, the specific goals of librarianship vary over time and space, but generally they are related to generating and disseminating knowledge. The private enterprise has but one goal – make money. I’m not disparaging this goal – it is important for our overall economy. But it is frustrating to me to repeatedly read how public works should learn lessons from the private world. Libraries have been around for thousands of years. While I don’t think we should take this for granted and not change or innovate, to innovate for the sole purpose of surviving seems backwards to me.
I do appreciate the thought experiment though, because it does enable us to examine how we impact those whom we are attempting to serve.