Sunday, April 17, 2011

"To create, you must destroy."

The Library War. Is it me, or has the library war already started? Because I keep reading about how the old library is dead and the new library needs building. That print has been mortally wounded and now those inbred and bastard children fight to be the next ruler. We have our own Game of Thrones (this week on HBO) in the fantasy library world of Bibliotania (yeah, you come up with a better name):
  • We have Knowledge Facilitators, once loyal to the throne but now impatient for political change so long as the office remains in their control.

  • We have Transliterates, plotting with foreign armies or mercenaries, anyone who can bring swift wealth and power.

  • We have Digital Natives, spoiled, selfish, corrupt, unable to see beyond their immediate desires, but who command a great army.

But each for now, opposed to the rule of Paper. Paper Rule, Papal Rule: there could be some historic parallel in this tale. All these voices in Libraryland say that The Print is Dead. See? That sounds like "the Prince is dead." You could really run with this to write a terrible story if you wanted.

So they all shout. Somehow, I think, that whoever shouts about the death of print the loudest, that one will somehow gain the upper hand in the fight.

"Technology is the answer!" "Transliteracy!" "Knowledge Facilitation through communication with local communities is the solution! (That one's not so catchy.)

So, although the library is actually doing pretty well and not at all at death's door, these groups think it's wise to declare the death. Yes, print may not ever recover fully; the wound is too deep. But to attack now can only weaken the library more. Because the library and print are inseparable in the eyes of the people. So that's the war, as it is now. The library suffers. Print is dead. And at least three factions march upon the territory to claim victory.

But is this wise? There are external forces who wish to see the library dead. The whole ebook seller market and publishers of bestsellers would love to see the library disappear. Even though the library accounts for millions of dollars in sales, if the public had to buy individual copies for themselves, those sales would increase 2, 4, even 10 times.

You would think that the best position would be for these groups to run to the aid of the library and tell the public that Technology, Transliteracy, and Knowledge Facilitation have always been part of the library and that the library is strong and healthy. But they don't. So the war, it is here. At our door step. I think. Unless these groups can find a way toward common ground, I don't know what will happen.

Because the enemies of the library lie in wait, also, to attack. Elected assholes keep stripping the funding and telling the public that they are saving them money. But the library needs money to survive. And people need libraries. They really do. But the people become blinded and only see the few dollars these officials can actually save them, instead of recognizing that all their few dollars combined keep the libraries strong and give the people back untold riches in information access, entertainment and knowledge.

Okay, fine, I've gotten a little prosy with my writing. And since you all expect a little violence and sex with your stories these days, I'll tell you this: The war raged. Blood splattered on the fields of battle where limbs and split torsos lay. The young women bore their heaving breasts in passionate embrace with the victors. And all heard great sighs and moans of pleasure as each body arrived at the summit and all was released.

There, you feel better now? You pervert.

But we need to stop this war before it goes too far. The library is what matters. The library needs us all to survive. And even in the 21st Century, whether you believe the library is a place or whether you think the library is a service, the library is still a great idea. Let's stand together and fight for it.

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