Pay particular attention to the spot about 3/4 of the way through where Sir Ken starts talking about epiphany. This is what I obsess about every day at work (and in the shower, on my drive in, etc). I want our library to be a powerful and invisible conduit for young people so they can reach their epiphany. Every time we extend our services to a different demographic, simplify a process, or try to identify easier ways to connect PATRONS with IDEAS, we are speeding their interaction with their true and ultimate destiny. We’re all here to find what it is we are MEANT to do, meant to share with others. The library is either going to be a part of that process in the 21st century or it will very well go extinct.
In the 19th century, we were a civilizing force. A method of sharing the proscribed, acceptable, and palatable mores of society (as it were). But libraries gradually changed over time from the exclusive club for scholars and those striving to attain middle class “values” into something radically different. The moment we unlocked the books and let patrons have open stacks, we were admitting something: you know what you want and need better than we do. And instead of gatekeepers we became lamplighters; fellow travelers who’d been down the road once or twice with friends and who would gladly walk along with you as well.
And in the self-service life of the 21st century, we’re the ones handing you maps to adjacent lands and interesting detours… librarians are the people who want you to consume with abandon– glut yourself in our stacks!– and then we’ll be there when you’re ready to make sense of everything you’ve found. If you need us, we’ll be your Motel 6 and leave a virtual light on for you.
Nowhere is this concept more important than in education. We must prepare for an imminent seismic shift in our educational system that empowers the individual learner to pursue passions and to take intellectual side-trips wherever they may lead… and an entire community must be ready for that. We’ll need both for and non-profit businesses, we’ll need mentors both artisanal and scientific, and most of all we’ll need libraries. We will need massive collections of ideas that people can spark against one another like stone and flint. Libraries will serve as the agora for citizen-learners, throwing off isolation and embracing community in ways that haven’t even yet been invented.