What Happened to the Word: Library?

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The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a library as:  “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale.”  I don’t see any mention of a library as a place exclusively for books printed on paper. It’s a collection of materials, correct?  The way I understand the definition is that a library can have Nooks, Kindles, and iPads and still be a library. So why are so many people dumping the word “library” in favor of cold sounding terms like: The Media Center or the IMC? IMC, by the way, stands for Instructional Material Center. The word Kindle is more inspiring than IMC!

For the past few years, there have been numerous occasions when I’m talking with another librarian about his or her school and they refer to their library as the media center or the IMC. I’m sure there were good intentions when making the change. The administrators probably thought IMC sounded more tech-savvy and up to date. But I don’t know why the word “library” can’t be an umbrella for the new purposes libraries serve. The word itself is just so much nicer.  A “library” connotes curiosity and imagination and searching. When I hear IMC, I think of a cold sterile place where I search for data in an efficent way. When I think of libraries, I think of a search that begins in one place, but includes many detours.

This is a perfect time to celebrate the word “library.” Tomorrow, Monday, May 23, is the 100th anniversary of the New York Public Library’s Schwarzman Building – the one with the lions. Like many readers, I will never forget the first time I saw them. If there is a tangible symbol of what reading and knowledge are, then surely it is Patience and Fortitude, the lions who guard all of those treasures. 

” At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better.”
 –Barack Obama


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