What IS a public library?

This parody of the iPad commercials most of us have seen is an interesting way to present libraries and their value to people. What do you think about the video? Some find it defensive, saying that we spend too much time defending an outdated idea of who we are and what role we play in the community. Instead, shouldn’t we find what sets us apart, what differentiates us from everyone else, and focus on that?

What does the library provide that is unique? Is it accessibility? There is no class restriction, no socio-economic barriers to using the library. You can be any age, any race, any religion. The library prides itself on the freedom of information. Is this our differentiators? Are we unique because we are a place where you have access to any available information? Or is it the fact that our staff spends years training to work in a library, to be able to help you find exactly what you need, sometimes even before you know what that is yourself. Is it our well-trained staff that sets us apart from the Google, Bing, and Yahoo’s of this world? Do you trust a librarian more than Wikipedia?

This answer is different for everyone. Most of us place a value on our library based on our experience personally. What defines your library experience? What does a library mean to you?

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