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A caricature
Digital or no digital, where is the library?

By Rana Haj Yahia

I sat for a long time, wondering how can I sum up my experience of participating in the ‘Emerging International Voices - Digital Libraries’ webinars. Something bugged me about the idea of writing a plain article with insights and statistics. It’s not that there were none, just that I didn’t feel much inspiration. Although there were a number of ideas that caught my attention:

  • Storytelling is not the same when it goes virtual (Luke Swarthout, New York Public Library);
  • we can expand the library's activities outdoors (Marie Oestergaard, Aarhus Central Library);
  • and Katrin Schuster (Munich Public Library) questioning how we transfer sense and sensibility with the virtual shift. 
To be more precise, I should clarify that I totally acknowledge the importance of developing and expanding the libraries’ platforms into digital and the need to make these more friendly, easy and accessible to the users. But as the speakers collectively acknowledged, we are at a crossroads in the field of virtual libraries, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every library, worldwide, has had to innovate to continue providing its basic services to the public under lockdowns and social distancing.
 
During the sessions, I wasn’t quite at ease. I was thinking to myself, ‘OK, there are good ideas to adapt here’, but my concerns focused on how things run at the public library in Kfar-Saba (Israel), where I work as a librarian. Do we have enough resources to make it happen? Is it worth investing? Is that what our users are looking for? However, the key is in finding the right balance between the library’s physical and digital platforms, as most of the speakers confirmed. I believe that every library has a different balance according to its local community and its needs; every library has its own priorities to set as to what its users – and potential users – might ask for.

The key is in finding the right balance between the library’s physical and digital platforms (...) I believe that every library has a different balance according to its local community and its needs.

Rana Haj Yahia


In this way, I finally figured out what was really bugging me: it was the increased workload we had to face during the ongoing second lockdown due to COVID-19. We lend books, with delivery or pick-up according to preference, and deal with a myriad of new requests and questions on a daily basis, with a limited number of staff. Therefore, I decided to share this unrepresentative* caricature as a small example of the difficulties we deal with daily as librarians here at Kfar-Saba public library with our dear readers.
A caricature
Rana Haj Yahia
(*) most of the readers are familiar with E-books, digital platforms or using the catalogue on the website.

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