An Open Reply to Thomas Mann

Some time ago, Thomas Mann’s published to the web his article, “What is distintive about the Library of Congress in both its collections and its means of access to them, and the reasons LC needs to maintain classified shelving of books onsite, and a way to deal effectively with the problem of “books on the floor””. It has already made the rounds of many blogs and listservs; to access the PDF version, click here.

Recently, Jim Weinheimer, from the Cooperative Cataloging Rules and an active participant on the NGC4LIB listserv, published a reply to Thomas Mann called “An Open Reply to Thomas Mann”. The pdf can be found at: http://eprints.rclis.org/17331/1/OpenMannDistinctive.pdf.
Jim offers delivers some good replies to Thomas Mann. Two that stand out are:

  • Jim explains that Mann argues that: “We cannot do new things because we are too busy doing old things.”
    • Here, Jim objects to the view that librarianship is experiencing a small “bump” as he calls it. After this curve in the road, things will return to normal. I agree with Jim. Librarianship is not experiencing just a bump in the road. Librarianship is radically changing in ways I don’t think we even understand yet. Sticking to the routine or to how things have always been done will not help us prepare for these changes.
  • Jim argues against libraries and librarians being “custodians of the printed materials”
    • Libraries have long since regarded themselves as solely in the print business and storing print materials. For one, it is extremely expensive and not many institutions have a budget that would allow to buy, maintain, and store a host of printed materials. Also, in order to serve their communities, it has long been known that libraries need communities services, outreach programs, services for computers, wi-fi, etc. This means that libraries are more than storage units for printed materials. What makes them come alive is their array of services that include print materials and much more.
  • The old days of librarianship are over.
    • Technology is changing ever so rapidly. The way people interact with that technology to inform themselves is also changing. It is not that print materials are not a way to become informed. But it is not the only way now. Given the variety of how people seek, gather, and obtain information, libraries need to be thinking of how to meet these needs, namely how to change to meet these needs.

Jim’s reply is not long (7 pages). It is worth reading.

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