Reading all the press recently - it becomes obvious that many people do not actually know what libraries can provide, and what librarians do in the 21st century. At the moment they seem to an 'easy target' when councils etc are cutting costs. Why this lack of understanding?
I suspect that some of the problems come from the time that libraries moved over to self service - borrowing books and returning them were the points at which most people came into contact with library staff. Moving to self issue freed librarians and library assistants from some of the more mundane tasks, and enabled them to take on tasks more suited to their specialist skills...however for a large percentage of library users - not only did they lose that regular contact with the library staff (it is very easy to visit the library, borrow books etc without talking to anyone), but many would not know what the librarians are doing instead. Equally we lost an opportunity to get day to day feedback from our users.
Ned Potter has a good point - we do need to get out of the echo chamber... we need to more actively advertise our wares... if even David Cameron thinks all we do is loan books - we really need to tell everyone we meet what libraries provide, and what specifically we can do for them!