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Libraries and the reality of the new normality

Step by step we are seeing how the so-called new normality is spreading in all areas of our daily life and our daily actions. While we watch that this #newnormality does not erode even more our fragile democracies [1] and take us to a population control and an Orwellian 1984, we see that nothing is the same anymore: omnipresent masks, queues to enter the shops, and a long etcetera that I will not detail now because it is excessive and known. And to all this, obviously the libraries have also had to adapt. Anthony W. Marx, president of the New York Public Library, explains in an article in the New York Times [2] that libraries must change, and that this change necessarily involves offering many more digital services. And I add: more and better, and that these services should not be just a part of the (partial) strategy and policy of the libraries, but that it should involve a structural transformation of the libraries. A paragraph in Marx’s article is significant and I fully subscribe to it:

This experience has made it clear to us that libraries must invest — or continue to invest — in digital and virtual technologies and expertise. There is so much more we can do. Every library should aspire to provide the broadest possible digital access to all books and the world’s accumulated knowledge, not just the snippets now available on the web. The digital public library is a piece of necessary public infrastructure that must be built with the same care, collaboration, and adherence to values — including privacy — that we have used to build and run our branches.

And of course, this crisis has taught us to expand outside our walls in a completely different way than we have been doing successfully. If before we did it as one more action, during the confinement we have had to do it at 100%… pure survival to continue giving service. This exit outwards has been, obviously, digital: there was no other. The digital, already present, has now come to be omnipresent. The #newnormality in the #libraries is to incorporate the digital in all, absolutely all areas of management and our daily practice.

Now, at this point, when many libraries have already opened their doors, while some (quite a few) are still closed, in my opinion we will realize some very interesting things (if we have not already done so), and that may even represent an opportunity. I’ll write down three:

  1. That digitization was not just a strategy aimed primarily at the old collection and focused on preservation and conservation. That it is also for the modern collection, and that the development of collections of #ebooks, databases and #repositories serves to ensure permanent and ubiquitous access to our users.
  2. That digitization is not only something we must do to protect our library collections, but that we must now definitively implement a fully digital global management in our libraries: online registration of users, telematic payments, virtual meetings, partial or total teleworking, development of VPN networks,… would be just a few examples…
  3. That this limitation of capacity is perhaps not bad, and that it will help us to better manage our buildings, facilities and equipment (human, material, etc.); that it will help us to better dimension our efforts, and to be able to give a personalized service and individualized attention to our users. That the limited capacity could even help us to make our buildings more flexible, and to be able to give new uses that now have no place due to lack of space.

In this new reality, surely more than ever, there is something that we must never stop paying attention to: and that we must always, always, guarantee equal and equitable access to our libraries, without any kind of discrimination. And that is that this, hopefully, should never change.

References

Compra el meu últim llibre de ficció “Tots els noms del tren”

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Hi, I’m Daniel Gil

Bibliotecari-documentalista. Pare de dues xiquetes meravelloses i que m'estimo amb bogeria. Fent feina de bibliotecari a la #BiblioEpiscopal. Vivint entre #Tortosa i #Barcelona. Els trens de la #R16 són el meu tercer espai. Curriculum | Llibres publicats | Tots els noms del tren

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