After reading Tuesday's post, Sylvia Richardson, one of our PVLD Librarians, sent me the following email -
Kathy, I have to say that this article expresses many things I see happening within libraries that undermine our
profession. The idea that we as librarians are qualified to be selectors or guides through the sea of information (& mis-information) is being forgotten or ignored, in part because our culture seems addicted to seeking increases in quantity, not quality---whether it is french fries, widgets, literature or information. The idea that it is better to read 50 books, (or "items")--never mind that they are mediocre, formulaic repeats of what we read last year, rather than 25 titles that are more challenging, has become the new goal of many library systems. Our profession used to be above the fray when it came to worrying about sales figures, which made us different, in a wonderful way, from the chain bookstore. If that "supermarket" model is becoming ours, it ought to worry anyone who cares about intellectual freedom and growth in our culture. Our job as librarians is to engage people in growth throughout their lives, before, during and after "school" days, to be a beacon of free thought unencumbered by sales figures, which more often indicates mass market thinking than new and daring concepts; the sales curve always follows some distance behind the new concepts humans create. (Was Van Gogh a bestselling artist in his lifetime???) It is our job, as I see it, to include in our collections "items" that may be less than mainstream, but more important precisely because they are out of the main stream; new directions, offshoots, upstarts, wellsprings off the beaten path. One of my favorite quotations is from Kenneth Burke; "Art may be of value purely through preventing a society from becoming too assertively, too hopelessly, itself." That reminded me, when I first saw it, of the quotation above Royce Hall at UCLA that I saw daily while i was in Library School there--"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
If we are not serving as navigational beacons by dint of our dedication to --do I dare use this word that has become a derogatory one--"intellectual" training as professionals, then we may as well just pile the mass market paperbacks up and let folks browse like so many ruminants on the chaff instead of separating it from the wheat, and let them wander through the internet haphazardly bumping into information of widely varying quality. . I hope we as a profession continue to be visionaries, using the new technologies to further open windows to new visions without making the numbers game be our primary motivation.
Sorry I went on!! Got a little excited. But this matters!
Sylvia raises some thought-provoking points....and I want to think about what she says before I respond. In the meantime I thought her comments were worth sharing. What do you think?