The personality, or personomy, or personhood/agency, of Edward Snowden is drawing lots of attention at the moment. He has been attacked and praised. As I have written elsewhere, some of those attacks walk parallel lines to a lie, but here I’d like to consider something that happened way back in the last decade. Forget Snowden for a minute.
Some librarians like to disparage something they call the “traditional library.” The reasons vary depending on circumstances, and understanding the criticism is made more difficult because no one seems to agree on what a “traditional library” is, except that it exemplifies whatever the critical librarian doesn’t like about libraries or librarianship. I find this sort of rhetoric divisive and self-defeating, but that’s a topic for another column. Instead, I’ll provide a description of traditional libraries as I see them, and offer a brief encomium.
As you may have seen, I’ve been talking recently with a number of newer librarians and reporting about those conversations in this column, e.g., here. Thinking it could be helpful to check in with some seasoned professionals on their instructions for newer librarians, I emailed a short survey to a bunch of library friends around the country—folks who’ve worked in public, academic, and special libraries, who are on the front lines, in back rooms, at the top, and in-between. Guaranteeing them complete anonymity, I asked them to reply to four questions. Here are the questions and the unexpurgated replies I received.
Walk Your Precinct: Use Campaigns Techniques To Activate Library Advocates and Voters | Advocates’ Corner
Our colleagues in the political sciences spend considerable time studying voter behavior. They have identified several key reasons that people do or don’t come out to the polls. Human factors like self-identification with a candidate’s issues, personal familiarity with the candidate, and the voter’s own sense of civic responsibility set a baseline for likely support. Whether the voter trusts the election process and government in general, is knowledgeable about the issues and not just personalities, and whether there are barriers to his or her enfranchisement are also significant drivers. Finally, is the voter motivated to go to the polls to punch a chad, or does the campaign need to activate him or her? Over time, candidates have leveraged and shaped these human behaviors into the modern Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign. GOTV approaches becomes best practices for us to follow in library ballot campaigns.
Everyone agrees: libraries are critical institutions. Librarians certainly feel that way, but so does the general population and even (mostly) politicians—especially if asked publicly. But since I’m kind of a fussbudget, I can’t help wanting to drill down into that sentiment a bit. What do we mean when we say that libraries are “critical,” particularly when we’re talking about academic and research libraries?
When I was a kid, I used to play with the girl who lived across the street. But I never got to choose the game. When we were at her house, she would say “It’s my house, so I get to pick.” When we were at my house, she’d say, “I’m the guest, so I get to pick.” I would’ve been fine with either of these rules, but I was not fine with her choosing whichever was to her advantage at that moment. Visiting BookExpo America (BEA) last week, it occurred to me that, on the question of whether an ebook is “sold” or “licensed,” many publishers are dead ringers for that little girl across the street.
“When is a Sale Not a Sale? Selling vs. Licensing Digital Content” the International Digital Publishing Forum’s Digital Book 2013 conference asked. The panel, which took place on May 30 during the co-located BookExpo America last week in New York, featured Bill Rosenblatt, founder of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies, who gave a point-by-point overview of the current state of digital copyright law.
Historically, libraries have been centered on bringing the world to our members through our collections. This problem of access was important to help solve, meeting a vital societal need. Likewise, our focus on information technologies and the web is natural, too. Throughout the years, these tools have presented some outstanding challenges, though generally they have aided tremendously in our mission to expand access to accumulated cultural knowledge and output. But our fixation on collections and technology is no longer serving us—nor our members.