Define: “library”

Ask a random person on the street “what is a library?”, and you will likely receive a reply something along the lines of the following:
“It’s where you borrow books”
“You can study there”
“People can go there for free internet and to use a computer”

… and so on down the list. Notice a theme?

All these answers define the library institution as a “place” where there are “resources and services”. A library is indeed a resource centre, but a library cannot be defined as its resources.

The library is an ideal

In truth, a library is a treasure; not because of what it holds inside its walls, but because of the ideals from which it was born. Very human ideals underpin many of the libraries we see today. A public library, in particular, is arguably a human right. The concept of access and equity is fundamental to a proper definition of libraries. Even for a private library belonging to a corporation and residing in a sky scraper behind a locked door, the idea exists that information and knowledge can empower individuals, can positively impact decisions, and therefore should be curated and made available.

Core business

A Marketing lecturer once enlightened me in my first year at University. He asked the class “what is the core business of a pizza shop”? We replied, “pizzas” of course. “You are all wrong”, he replied “the core business of a pizza shop is ‘convenience'”. My mind expanded in that moment, and I began to define things, in general, quite differently.

A library can no more be defined by a resource/service than a Chemist can be defined by a packet of bandages. The objective of the Chemist store is, first and foremost, to generate revenue. It does this by providing products and support for the health needs of the community. Similarly then, the resources and services provided by libraries, are the means by which its core business is achieved: the business of enabling, inspiring, facilitating knowledge creation…. and many other worthy things along that vein.