Wednesday, May 26, 2010


So I was just reading my "American Libraries Direct, 5/26/2010" and there's this explanation of the "new" National Library Symbol. You know, that generic geometric humanoid holding some item that represents a book? This thing that you drive past on the way to the library...

Well, now there's a newer one, with that same geometric humanoid, but this time he's using a laptop.

the official symbol

the "unofficial" symbol

Now, the ALA says, "Please note that this 2009 laptop version is not a replacement of the National Library Symbol. Any and all references to a National Library Symbol do still mean the 1982 logo with the book. The laptop image is meant to reflect the use of technology in libraries as outlined in the Libraries Connect Communities 3: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2008-2009 but nothing more."

Which to me is just nuts. I like the old symbol. But I don't mind changing it, just don't base the change on a survey of library technology usage from two years ago. To clarify, I know this is not a new "official" national symbol. I mean, don't choose an "unofficial" symbol that represents where libraries were; choose one that shows where we are going.

What happens next year when the survey shows that everyone is using tablet computers or ereaders or smartphones in the libraries? Do we change the symbol again to reflect this updated information? Because you know for a fact, that usage will change.

And what about 50 years from now, when library use changes to where our clones read us bedtime stories? Will this be the new national symbol?

50 years from now, your clone reads you a bedtime story

I don't want my national library organization to change our identities based on any public whim. If we make the educated guess that iPads or tablets or ereaders will dominate from next year into the foreseeable future, then just bypass the laptop look and go for broke on the next technology trend.

Besides, I don't want to reinforce the image that libraries are just for computer access. That just spells death for our future when we can only offer the public the same thing they can get over at McDonald's or Barnes & Noble. And anyway, a tablet computer looks more like a book.

Someone tell the ALA to change the symbol to a tablet now and let libraries look like we're leading technology trends for once, instead of always being years behind them.

Oh, the third symbol is a humanoid holding a tablet computer; he's not kneeling in front of the toilet like he has to throw up. Although that could be a symbol for our library some days, too.