‘It’s nice to read a sustained argument’ I said some time ago. And in the case of this book, it was very nice.
Balanced Libraries provides a wide-ranging overview of debates in librarianship. Much of the material is drawn from liblogs, although there are references from journals and conferences. If it offered nothing else, the book would be useful for this synthesis; it will serve as a good introduction to views on issues such as change, innovation, technology and service development.
In this book, Crawford makes a clear case for a balanced approach to libraries and librarianship. From the outset he makes it clear that balance is not to be confused with the status quo, much less with resistance to change. He is also at pains to make clear that he is not offering a one size fits all answer to library issues.
This is one of the most refreshing aspects of the book; that it offers ideas, reflections and examples but always reminds us to put these in the context of our libraries and our visitors. The book is thus a good example of a balanced approach; it is not a strident call to revolution, nor a paean to lost joys. Rather it is a reasoned call to maintain the best of what we have and to always look as to how we can make change work for our libraries. As he says, “You should think about change clearly, looking for ways to improve situations- not ways to implement some neat new technology.”Though my reading of this book tells me that if the neat new technology worked for the community, Crawford would be right behind it.
Whilst presenting the debates, Crawford offers his own view of balance. In essence, this means considering both current and potential visitors; the needs of staff as much as those of visitors; and a real understanding of the concerns both groups may have when faced with change. By working with people change will be made more effective and relevant.
The section I found most interesting was chapter 14 ‘Balanced Librarians’. Here Crawford stresses (no pun intended) the importance for librarians to be as balanced as their libraries. By taking a break, he argues, we will be better librarians. This is an important message at any time, and a good counter to the constant change mantra. Sometimes you have to stand still to move.
On a production note, the cover, binding and paper are all of the best quality; Lulu have done a good job.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in ‘Library 2.0’ and other contemporary issues, as Crawford sets them in their wider context. Yet it covers broader issues than just the latest technology, and does so in a considered way. As such, it will also stand when today’s issues are yesterday’s debates. It is passionate, yet not partisan; timely, yet not time bound.