Robot and Frank is a wonderful movie of an uncommon friendship between a man and his new robot “butler.” The story hinges on the reawakening of Frank from his slow descent into dementia as the robot renews his interest in one more cat burglary, Frank’s old occupation.
The burglary is on the new library coordinator. The coordinator is determined to reinvent the library as a “community center” because he believes getting information from libraries is old school and inefficient. The books will soon be gone. Frank enjoys his library visits and seems to get a great deal of pleasure from his interaction with the librarian in finding new books to read. It’s an easy choice for Frank which house to hit for his next score.
Besides the heartwarming story I enjoyed this movie because it reminded me of a discussion I had in Scotland with the Dean of my library school. We talked about a presentation from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and how they were lumped into a consortium with the Arts and Parks Departments called Glasgow Life. What this consortium did was enable Glasgow to reduce overhead costs for each of those departments by sharing employees where needed most between libraries, museums and parks. Our discussion didn’t so much hinge on the practicalities of the arrangement, it made fiscal sense (although we wondered how they got union buy-in) but rather we wondered about the long term effect on the perception of libraries going forward. Shouldn’t the library be partnered with education and schools instead of museums and parks?
By aligning the library with the Arts and Parks Departments you place the library in the entertainment realm. This coincides with some current thinking about turning libraries into ‘community centers’ because of the perceived notion that future libraries will hold fewer books. It’s a given there will be fewer books in libraries in the future but focus should remain on education. We thought a better fit for libraries would be under an education umbrella along with schools. Libraries shouldn’t lose the educational importance of their missions.
The work libraries maintain with developing early readers goes hand in hand with primary education. What libraries need to work on is continuing that work with lifelong learners, people returning to libraries after their children have grown and who have time to devote to themselves. Or those patrons who need to relearn new skills to pursue new employment. By focusing on education libraries have a more substantial argument in fiscal discussions going into the future.