To show just how far we libraries have progressed, check out the brief history of the founding of National Library Week:
"In the mid-1950s, research showed that Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments. Concerned that Americans were reading less, the ALA and the American Book Publishers formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee in 1954. The committee's goals were ambitious. They ranged from "encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time" to "improving incomes and health" and "developing strong and happy family life."Listen to how quaint all this sounds now. Concern that Americans are reading less. Motivating people to read. "Wake up and read!" The fifties were such an innocent time, at least if you worked for the ALA.
In 1957, the committee developed a plan for National Library Week based on the idea that once people were motivated to read, they would support and use libraries. With the cooperation of ALA and with help from the Advertising Council, the first National Library Week was observed in 1958 with the theme "Wake Up and Read!""
Now, instead of concern that people are spending more on radios, TVs, and musical instruments than books, the ALA and lots of American libraries have decided to throw in the towel. Libraries must, we are told, get away from the "books" brand, because it's too staid and dated. That's like so 1950s, man! Except it turns out that the libraries were in danger then as well. Back then they decided to fight back and say "Reading is good! Don't buy so many televisions!" But now many librarians have decided to join the illiterate barbarians instead of trying to elevate them. Instead of identifying the library with reading and promoting that heavily, we get all the gamey librarians and the twopointopians declaring that the library needs to change, change, change to stay "relevant."
The ALA does still have their READ posters, and plenty of librarians still promote reading, but it seems to me that a big part of the ALA and plenty of folks concerned with libraries don't have the will their predecessors showed in the 1950s. Fifty years ago libraries decided to promote reading to build up library support. Libraries have survived fifty years partially on that effort. Perhaps this is the week where librarians can dismiss the gamey librarians and the twopointopians. Instead of giving the library over to the gamers and the like, maybe we should do more to promote reading instead. Some gamey librarians are disingenuous enough to say they just want to get these kids in the door with gaming so they'll learn to like books and reading, but we all know that's hogwash. The fun and games are ends in themselves. Books are old fashioned. It could be, however, that as go books and reading, so go the libraries, and if that's the case, who'll be celebrating National Library Week in another fifty years?