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Is this meme making me a hypochondriac?

library hospital (1).jpg

"The library is a hospital for the mind."  A friend shared this meme on Facebook this weekend and predictably tagged me, his library student friend, in the post (he also tags me in anything at all Game of Thrones related - I am okay with both of these habits of his).  I thought the picture and quote had a nice general sentiment but didn't dwell too much on the actual text - until the controversy started.

Now, to be fair, I might be describing this with a touch more drama than what actually happened.  By "controversy" I mean, "someone benevolently disagreed in a Facebook comment."  This responder offered the following instead: "[The library is] More like a buffet. I only go to the hospital when something is wrong, and I can't choose my treatment. I eat every day and much like a library, the buffet has options for whatever I'm hungry for."

Perhaps it is because I am reading about the "service perspective" within library and information science in one of my current classes, but this argument struck me as extremely relevant and interesting.  Neither is anti-library in any way, and we as library students know that a library or any other information institution is far more than a pile of books.  So are libraries hospitals or are they buffets?  Must they be one or the other, or can they be a little of both?  Are libraries truly healing something within their patrons?  Or are libraries "buffets" for those hungry for knowledge? 

It seemed to me that my friend and his responder were looking at libraries through the lens of their own relationship with information seeking.  Someone from a community or social background where education and the pursuit of knowledge is not encouraged or accessible may consider the library like a hospital.  If one is suffering from bad public education or feeling diminished by those who do not see the value in education, a library can certainly provide the special care that is otherwise unavailable.  On the other hand, someone whose community offers a sufficient educational system and/or has a family who encourages learning may see the library as a way to satisfy themselves with more knowledge without first feeling starved.  How do we as librarians and information scientists provide for both kinds of users?

What do you think?  Please let me know!  And who knew that a simple Facebook meme could spark such philosophical and social debate?