I mentioned the other day that the Times had nominated Philip Larkin, poet and librarian (“the toad work“) as the greatest British writer since 1945.
Through the wonders of resource sharing I have got hold of a copy of his history of the library at the University of Hull, updated by Maeve Brennan (from Western Michigan University, if you are interested ;-).
Larkin, Philip, and Maeve Brennan. A Lifted Study-Storehouse The Brynmor Jones Library, 1929-1979. Philip Larkin memorial series, no.1. Hull: Hull University Press, 1987.
There, I was interested to read:
…. independent history implies independence of operation, and since a library is always first and foremost a service it should be reluctant to arrogate to itself any qualities suggesting an identity separate from the community it serves.
Which is a nice reminder that libraries are not ends in themselves. Something that is very well said by Eleanor Jo Rodger in one of the more interesting things I have read in the last few years (in the September 2007 American Libraries). Interesting enough to bear repeating. She places the library in the context of its host environment, and closes with this paragraph:
Creating value for our host systems always involves three things: Librarians must understand their host systems; they must understand the source of their claim to being a legitimate part of their system; and they must do their work well so the system is better because they are there. It’s usually far more a matter of asking and listening than it is of telling and pleading.
Incidentally, ‘study-storehouse’ pulls together – a little clumsily? – the dual role of the library as a place for people and as a store for materials discussed by Larkin in the text.