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Are Librarians Totally Obsolete? Reasons Why Libraries and Librarians Are Still Extremely Important

Many predict that the digital age will wipe public bookshelves clean, and permanently end the centuries-old era of libraries. As libraries' relevance comes into question, librarians face an existential crisis at a time when students need them the most. Despite their perceived obsolescence in the digital age, both libraries and librarians are irreplaceable for many reasons - nearly twenty reasons, in fact.
Reasons Number 10 to 12:

10. Eliminating Libraries would Cut Short an Important Process of Cultural Evolution: The library that we are most familiar with today a public or academic institution that lends out books for free is a product of the democratization of knowledge. In the old days, books weren't always so affordable, and private libraries, or book clubs, were a privilege of the rich. This started changing during the 1800s, with more public libraries popping up as a result of government initiatives.

Libraries began blossoming under the watch of President Franklin Roosevelt, in part as a tool to differentiate the United States from book-burning Nazis. This increased interest in building a more perfect, liberal society culminated in 1956 with the Library Services Act, which introduced federal funding for the first time. Today there are tens of thousands public libraries in the United States.

The notion that libraries are a thing of the past and that humankind has sprouted wings and flown into a new era of self-guided. Unfortunately, it's this same notion that could lead to the notion of libraries as stuffy and out-of-date. In reality, the quality of the web depends on guidance from the library model. While moderators do have brush to clear in the new and savage cyber-scape, librarians have trail blazed significant parts of the journey.

11. Wisdom of Crowds is Untrustworthy, Because of the Tipping Point: The high visibility of certain viewpoints, analysis and even facts found online through social networking sites and wikis is engineered ideally to be the result of objective group consensus. Google's algorithm also hinges on this collective principle: rather than an in-house "expert" arbitrarily deciding what resource is the most authoritative, let the web decide. Sites with higher link popularity tend to rank higher in the search engines. The algorithm is based on the principle that group consensus reveals a better, more accurate analysis of reality than a single expert ever could. Writer James Surowiecki calls this phenomenon "the wisdom of crowds."

In a vacuum, crowds probably are very wise. But all too often we see the caveat to James Surowiecki's crowd wisdom in Malcom Gladwell's "tipping point", which, in this context, explains that groups are easily influenced by their vanguard those who are the first to do something and who automatically have extra influence, even if what they are doing is not necessarily the best idea.

The highly social nature of the web therefore makes it highly susceptible to, for example, sensationalized, low-quality information with the sole merit of being popular. Libraries, in contrast, provide quality control in the form of a stopgap. Only information that is carefully vetted is allowed in. Libraries are likely to stay separate from the internet, even if they can be found online. Therefore, it is extremely important that libraries remain alive and well, as a counterpoint to the fragile populism of the web.

12. Librarians are the Irreplaceable Counterparts to Web Moderators: Individuals who voluntarily devote their time to moderating online forums and wikis are playing a similar role to librarians who oversee the stacks and those who visit the stacks, minus the Master's degree in library sciences. The chief difference between librarians and moderators is that while the former guides users through a collection of highly authoritative, published works, the moderator is responsible for taking the helm as consensus is created. While the roles are distinct, each is evolving along with the fast paced growth of the internet and the evolving nature of libraries. Both moderators and librarians will have a lot to learn from each other, so it is important that they both stick around.







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