I was having a discussion the other day about the digital books movement and saving a university money, and when I took the next logical step in the argument: “If we’re digitizing books to save space and money, why don’t we digitize librarians, too?” I was given a look in response intended to freeze fertile fields and euthanize rabid dogs.
“How could you even say that?”
I answered, “If we don’t need libraries filled with paper books, why do we need a person to help us find stuff when we have the Google?”
“You’re removing the human from the experience of reading.”
I tried not to laugh at this person who was in favor of digitizing book to save money, but not digitizing the librarian to save even more money. “Isn’t the human moment between the reader and the author and not the reader and the librarian? Isn’t it the librarian’s job to remain passive and invisible and to point without telling?”
“No,” was the reply, “You don’t understand. We need the human touch in a library. A library cannot be just a room with computers. You need the physical, human, hand there to guide you.”
“But instead of having hundreds of copies of the same book all over the world, we only really need one digital copy. We could do the same for the librarian: Find the best one, “computerize” the job and we’d have one, single, digital librarian to serve us all. Think of all the health benefits universities would save by removing both the paper AND the human.”
I was told I was disgusting as my conversation friend walked away.
I slightly yelled after her, “Hey! Why have a library at all at the university? We’ll let the IT people take over the stacks to install more super computers and WiMax and stuff and instead of reading anything, we’ll just watch streaming video on the internet! We can replace book authors with MTV!”