The past, which traditionalists like myself are always mourning, was a time when libraries were easier to use, in which patrons retrieved materials of unquestionably high authority, and which actively involved reference librarians in the search process when problems arose. The library enjoyed the esteem, even the veneration, of its users. The postmodern library, filled with its increasingly self-directed machines--and for all the billions poured into constructing it (at the expense of librarian staffing and salaries and acquiring traditional materials)--has guaranteed none of these experiences for our patrons, while locking them into an increasingly depersonalized experience. Librarianship's pursuit of efficiency and convenience will lead to increasing privatization at the vendors' helpful little hands and, eventually, total home access of everything--a consequence that has plunged the future of libraries into the rosy glow of twilight. The information capitalists, playing upon the agonizing psychic need for librarians to feel important, played us for fools, testing and retesting their products and interfaces on us as we cheerfully complied. How ironic that sleeping with them has left us not the captains of the Information Superhighway they assured us we would be, but rosy-cheeked information hitchhikers, thumbing a fide.


By William H. Wisner, a Reference Librarian, Laredo Community College, TX, and the author most recently of Whither the Postmodern Library ? (McFarlane?)

The End of An Edifice, William Wisner