2013 ALA Seattle: Midwinter Meeting: Librarians as guardians of public knowledge

25 Jan

Moi is attending the Seattle Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) and that causes moi to reflect about the role of libraries and librarians in preserving public knowledge. Margaret Jackubcin of Southern Oregon’s Mail Tribune gives ten excellent reasons why libraries are important to a community.

  1. Public libraries are good for the economy.

  2. Libraries are a cornerstone of democracy.

  3. Libraries play an important role in helping young children develop reading skills.

  4. Public libraries provide support to schools and students.

  5. Libraries are forward- thinking, and play an important role at the cutting edge of information technology.

  6. Libraries are repositories of the accumulated understanding of mankind.

  7. Public libraries are a bargain.

  8. Libraries provide a neutral community gathering place for the free exchange of ideas, culture, and entertainment.

  9. A vital and attractive library helps define a community, encourages civic pride, and invests residents with a sense of ownership.

  10. Libraries are the heart and soul of a community and reflect the value residents place on literacy, education, culture, and freedom.

Key to the success of libraries are librarians.

The ALA has a great description of what librarians do:

Me, a librarian?

It’s not every day that you find a job that can make a world of difference in people’s lives. Libraries have been empowering people by offering resources, services and training to expand their knowledge for thousands of years. Consider joining the 400,000 librarians and library workers who bring opportunity every day to the communities they serve.

While there’s no magic test that will tell you if a library career is right for you, there are many characteristics and values that librarians and library workers share:

  • Enjoy helping and serving other people 
  • Interested in developing and providing services, resources and materials that inform and entertain, such as books, movies, music, storytelling, websites, local history, databases, and puppets 
  • Thrive in a technologically changing environment 
  • Interest in information research, preservation and instruction 
  • Willing to connect people with a wide variety of value and belief systems to materials that represent multiple points of view
  • Believe strongly in First Amendment rights protecting the freedom of speech and of the press 
  • Wish to contribute to the greater good of a literate society
  • Want to be part of a professional community that encourages sharing information, opinions and expertise
  • Respect and uphold people’s rights to privacy and the freedom to read what they choose
  • Believe all information resources provided by libraries should be equitably accessible to all library users

If you hold many of these values, then visit Oh, the Places You Will Go to discover the many opportunities available to you in librarianship. http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/librarycareerssite/mealibrarian

If there is a trait that most librarians share, is the love of learning and sharing knowledge.

Ramon Barquin eloquently describes the importance of librarians in his speech, Debt to Librarians:

We have to remember librarians have been the guardians of knowledge from the very beginning of man’s attempts to capture information outside the human brain. The media in which explicit knowledge was stored evolved from clay tablets, parchments and papyrus scrolls into books. But librarianship today has gone substantially beyond books, and the focus of its work is connecting people with a need to know something to the right source of content for that knowledge. Most of these knowledge sources now are online databases or virtual documents that exist in cyberspace.
It’s a far cry from the image we have of the librarian of the past. In fact, many schools of library science have now either changed their academic name outright into schools of ‘information science’ or have added that term to their traditional library science denomination.
And well they should since they are very much into the thick of information science and hence IT, as well as knowledge management. Take something as hot these days as search. There is little that has a higher priority than search for an enterprise that must find specific content in the mountains of virtual documents in order to address the needs of its knowledge workers. Well, to a large degree this is what librarians have been doing for millennia. For them, it starts with developing taxonomies and classification schemes that allow the storing of content in a way that will make it easier later to retrieve what they are seeking. The card catalogues of our school libraries provided a basic example of a multidimensional approach to search. We could look under the author, title and subject  headings in order to find a specific tome or list of possible books that might be helpful in researching a given topic.
With automation came quantum changes in libraries too. Fairly soon we saw the computerised catalogues allowing us to search a library’s collection, then expanding its reach to permit searching sets of collections across collaborating schools or other domains. And because the scope of librarians is no longer tied just to books, the content in databases and knowledge spaces is very much their bailiwick.

http://www.ikmagazine.com/xq/asp/txtSearch.Taxonomies/exactphrase.1/sid.0/articleid.D1EDE6F7-63C2-4672-B210-69D2BC66F93F/qx/display.htm

The ALA is the primary professional group representing the many facets of library science.

The ALA describes its mission:

Mission & History

Founded on October 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the American Library Association was created to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. Our current strategic plan, ALA Ahead to 2015, calls for continued work in the areas of Advocacy for Libraries and the Profession, Diversity, Education and Lifelong Learning, Equitable Access to Information and Library Services, Intellectual Freedom, Literacy, Organizational Excellence and Transforming Libraries. http://www.ala.org/aboutala/missionhistory

So, about 10,000 librarians have come to Seattle for a weekend of seminars, meetings, fellowship, and affirmation.

Where information leads to Hope. ©                 Dr. Wilda.com

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