Why I’m going to Harvard to argue that libraries are obsolete and why you should help me do it

You may have seen the announcement that I’m part of a debate at Harvard on the proposition that libraries are obsolete. The twist is (at least it was for me) is that I’m arguing for the proposition – that is that libraries are obsolete.

So why the hell am I doing it? Do I really think that libraries are obsolete? What’s more why should you help me?

First I do not believe that libraries are obsolete. I do, however, believe that it is very worth debating that point. Part of that is my scholarly training. I believe in the Socratic method where you assume opposing sides of an argument (even, as in this case, you don’t agree with the stance) and then argue to the truth. But there is a much more compelling reason I took this on.

We must inhabit the arguments of our detractors if we are to refute them. More than that, to be true to our professional ethos, we must enter this debate with intellectual honesty. If we are here to support conversations, we must support those we agree with and those with which we disagree. Also, if we are to remain relevant we must enter into conversations with the community as whole – whether they agree with us or not.

So that’s why I need your help. What arguments have you encountered against libraries. Why do folks want to eliminate funding, or your library altogether? I promise if you provide them, I’ll make a post (or twelve) doing my best to counter them after my Harvard debate.

Please use the comments below or email me rdlankes@iis.syr.edu.

And in two weeks or so if you see a video of me arguing libraries are obsolete, realize I am doing it out of love.

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