The Next Cupcake?

23 Jul

Lately, the library twittersphere has been all, um, a-twitter about a recent blog post on NPR’s “Monkey See” blog. Linda Holmes argues that libraries are posed to become the next big pop culture phenomenon, based primarily on the recent popularity of library-related videos such as the BYU “New Spice” video, the Old Spice Guy reply to Andy Woodworth‘s twitter campaign to get him to talk about libraries, and the “Librarians do Gaga” video.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that popularity and buzz about libraries is a good thing, especially at a time when many libraries are seeing their budgets go on the chopping block. However, I was surprised by the nearly universal approval of the idea of libraries being “the next cupcake,” as evidenced by uncritical retweeting of the story. Now, I realize that there is only so much that one can say in 140 characters. But I only saw one person point out that fads and trends fade – and sometimes rather quickly (thanks, @LizB).

I don’t fault those who tweeted the story for their enthusiasm. It is fun to see positive stories about libraries, especially when they talk about libraries being cool. I know as a profession we can be a little sensitive about the stereotypical image of librarians as stodgy or prim shushers. But I don’t really want libraries to be a fad like cupcake shops a few years ago. Fads fade. I’d like libraries to be more like high-end coffee shops – not just a flash-in-the-pan trend but something with staying power. Look at Starbucks, whose success has really popularized espresso-based coffee drinks for a wide audience. Starbucks rose to prominence in the 1990s and is still going strong. I’m sure their success and the general populace’s new familiarity with espresso helped smaller, local coffee shops to thrive as well. For example, Starbucks introduced me to fancy coffee drinks. Now I rarely go there and prefer several local places instead. I’d rather the popularity of these library videos be a similar gateway to people checking out and using their libraries for many years to come.

I don’t want libraries to be the next cupcake. I want libraries to be the next Starbucks. As LizB said on twitter, “I don’t want to be the next “in” thing because then you are “out” and then “so six months ago.”

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