The User Is (Still) Not Broken There are disruptions everywhere—formats, distribution, and technology—but the one constant that gets forgotten is people By Bryan Kenney | Jan 27, 2014

Back in 2006, Karen Schneider, now university librarian at Oakland, Calif.’s Holy Names University, published “The User Is Not Broken: A Meme Masquerading as a Manifesto” on her blog, the Free Range Librarian. The post, as radical as it was simple, sparked debate, quickly became a classic in the profession, and is now a touchstone for librarians eager to reinvent their institutions.

But how well has the piece, written as a series of pithy maxims, survived the past eight years? Extraordinarily well, it turns out—even if our responses to some of Schneider’s rules continue to change.

We Are Not a Format, We Are a Service

We all should have had this sentence taped above our desks these last five years—it would have helped us weather the public’s fascination with e-books and the publishing industry’s exasperating licensing impediments and nutty pricing models.

For decades our identity was married to a format: the print book. And despite the tech boom, little has changed. According to a 2010 OCLC report, Perception of Libraries, 75% of Americans primarily associate libraries with books—more than in 2005 ( 69%).

With that in mind, it’s understandable how the rise of e-books might send some librarians into a tailspin. E-books, many of us feared, would send us the way of the dinosaur, because print would become obsolete and we wouldn’t be able to license e-books.

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