It is hard for me to write about library technologies that dispense with librarians when my wife has been a career librarian. However, that was yesterday and CPAs focus on improving results.
Companies are creating new machines to help library technologies dispense with librarians. For example, an Indianapolis library software maker is starting trials of a new vending machine it plans to sell early next year. "It's real, and the book lockers are great," said Audra Caplan, president of the Public Library Association. "Many of us have to reduce hours as government budgets get cut, and this enables people to get to us after hours."
Some library directors worry that such machines are the first step toward a future in which the physical library—along with its reference staffs and children's programs—fades from existence. James Lund, director of the Red Wing Public Library in Red Wing, Minn., recently wrote skeptically about the "vending library" in Library Journal, a trade publication. "The basis of the vending machine is to reduce the library to a public-book locker," Mr. Lund said in an interview. "Our real mission is public education and public education can't be done from a vending machine. It takes educators, it takes people, it takes interaction."
Such sentiments, however, ignore the fact that librarians were never trained educators (teachers), so library technologies should dispense with librarians. We also should not use libraries as a baby-sitting service, so library technologies should dispense with librarians.
Our librarians are good for finding requested material, but usually lack detailed knowledge about what patrons want to learn. The most effective educators, in any area, attract the most students. They often educate many students with video presentations. However, master educators increasingly use their knowledge and skill in text and video computer training courses. These courses constantly adjust presentations to the knowledge of each student. This method produces far better results, for far less money. The sooner we stop ineffective education, by librarians and marginal public school teachers, the more money we will have for better education.
The best librarians can help many more patrons, to find what they need with video courses, so library technologies can dispense with junior librarians and assistants. Reducing the number and size of conventional libraries also will cut the time the best librarians waste on administration.
We can use the web to teach most courses, for far less money. Home web education is far more cost effective than libraries and public schools. Home education also has major social, moral and health advantages, so we should encourage it. Besides, ultimately, increasingly our lifetime education will come from the web. Using library technologies to dispense with (most) librarians is only a first step.
I have the same approach for public libraries, public school teachers, income taxes and incandescent light bulbs. They are all less than 200 years old. We should not fear new technologies dispensing with any of them. We only replace items with something better. For the income tax, the something better is the FairTax. We can cut 95% of $1 trillion in annual income tax compliance and planning costs by letting the FairTax collect the same $2 trillion in annual federal tax revenue without hurting the poor.
Would you like to save $950 billion a year? Would you like to save $3,225 for each of us (man, woman and child)? It will end tax evasion. It also will get rid of 70,000 pages of Internal Revenue rules and almost all Internal Revenue agents. Most of all, the FairTax and library technologies that dispense with librarians can now drastically improve our economy and our lives.