A good library is a treasure map
I enjoyed reading Claire Fox's provocative article in last month's TESS ("How to save libraries from the e-predators", Comment, 20 June). However, I believe that Ms Fox ignores the dual role that libraries have always had. Equally as important as fostering a love of reading is to ensure that our readers are able to find the book or other source they want and, having located it, to extract the material they choose.
In medieval libraries, where books were chained to the shelf, this simply meant directing the reader to the appropriate place. As libraries grew and printed material became more abundant, librarians ensured that books were arranged in a logical order so that readers could browse shelves and locate what they wanted. They also taught people how to understand the systems used. This was the situation when I started working in a school library 35 years ago and it is still the same today.
In our school we have plenty of quiet time in the library for students to read for enjoyment and we put a lot of work into the range and quality of stock. But I also spend a lot of time making sure students are able to find whatever it is they want to read. The skills of locating, reading, noting relevant information, deciding if the information is accurate and recording the details of sources have always been an important part of using a library.
Today, there are so many books and other sources of information around that we must make sure our young people are able to filter these for themselves - just as important a lifelong skill as reading. Many of my students enjoy browsing shelves for books to read, but I would be failing as their librarian if I did not also make sure they could find their way through the digital maze of e-publishing and the internet.
As you will realise, I am quite clear "what libraries are actually for". I will use all means, materials and formats at my disposal to achieve these aims.
School librarian, North Berwick
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