Over at In the Library with the Lead Pipe, Kim Leeder discusses the rhetorical value of the term “traditional library.” She closes with the following observation:

If we define [the traditional library] rhetorically as an institution focused on physical spaces and materials, then there remains no question: the traditional library is dead. That doesn’t mean libraries as an institution are dead, nor does it mean that the physical library as a component of some larger organization is dead. The traditional library has been replaced with an expanded vision of itself, one that encompasses traditional values and features but extends outward to include the vastness of free and licensed digital resources as well as spaces and services that are entirely people-focused. The contemporary library, in contrast to the traditional library, resides online, teaches, reaches out and asserts its value across its community. [emphasis added]

In this way, every academic library exists on a spectrum between traditional, book-/space-centered work and contemporary, instruction-/service-centered work. In my opinion, a moderately successful library will be one that is keenly aware of its place on the spectrum and is able to articulate its value as such, but the highest success (at least in today’s information-rich, digitally connected landscape) will be reserved for those who can strategically align themselves closer to the contemporary side of the spectrum through teaching and outreach.

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