Most library professionals know how easy it is to get caught up in the whirlwind of daily tasks as we struggle to keep pace with demanding jobs and a rapidly changing profession. Sometimes, this can make us lose sight of why we entered librarianship in the first place—the basics that made this career mean so much to us. Those things we value most, like offering access to quality information, maintaining a diverse collection that appeals to everyone, preserving older titles for new generations, and serving the public good.
Submissions for Backtalk should be 850 to 900 words and sent to Michael Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the true story of how the librarians of New Zealand’s largest city decided to show a little leg and unleash the power of burlesque on its community.
How often do librarians find themselves trying to explain that the library’s mission is not about books but about information? This public misunderstanding about what we are doing and why leads to a community misconception of what we should be doing in the future. The reality is that we as librarians make the same mistake all the time. We know intellectually that informational flow and access are our main missions, but our decisions and our hearts often put the focus on books. Books, in many cases, remain by far the best delivery vehicle for information, but there are many subject areas where other informational vehicles would be more effective, even if implementing those vehicles might mean less money spent on books.
Open Access (OA) is usually associated with academic scholarship and its relationship to the “paywall” by proponents and critics alike. It is essential to consider the question of OA not only in terms of its impact on publishers and scholars, but in terms of its teaching and learning potential for students and educators.
The American Library Association (ALA)’s burgeoning budget crisis and dip in membership shows the group is having a tough time thriving as a multi-type library organization. It might be easy to cast a net of blame across the tepid economy, the aging profession, even entrenched leadership in ALA itself. But we think ALA’s membership woes are caused by a lack of unity across librarianship, a problem that is reinforced by ALA’s organizational structure and too narrow publications. In the tradition of thinking such as Andy Woodworth’s ‘big tent’ librarianship, we believe the leadership of the ALA should be at the forefront of unifying librarianship, working to link our academic, public, and school libraries and librarians. Instead, we shudder as we see ALA working to reinforce silos that separate public, academic, and school libraries from one another, rather than bridges to connect them.
Imagine that you bought a new jacket on Amazon.com and received an email a month later from the manufacturer telling you that you paid the wrong amount for the jacket and that you owe the company several hundred dollars more. This may seem implausible, but for academic libraries that buy DVDs through distributors like Amazon.com, it is a recurring problem: after buying DVDs at retail prices, they get an official-looking email saying they owe more.
The American Library Association (ALA) recently announced a statement of appropriate conduct for ALA conferences. This statement is a mechanism for addressing disputes, but it is also a declaration of values: it signals to everyone who we are. Furthermore, it’s part of an ongoing dialog about inclusion in library-related conference communities.
LIS faculties need diversity: more so of gender, of ability, of thought, and of race and ethnicity. If we as a profession keep saying that we must recruit more minority students because this makes us better prepared to serve increasingly diverse patron populations, shouldn’t we do the same at the faculty ranks?
The iconic image of library workers pushing book trucks is quickly slipping into obsolescence. According to figures from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), student employment in libraries dropped 23 percent between 2000 and 2010, while support staff declined 16 percent. If the 2008 recession played a role in these declines, it somehow failed to prevent the library professional category from rising 9 percent in the same period. In fact, it is the evolving nature of library work that is driving these changes, not the recession. Lower skill library work is disappearing, and it will never come back.
What would happen to our libraries if the following statement became a reality: “If you can buy a book, you can’t borrow it?” What if I told you that it’s on the verge of happening internationally, and in a way that is pretty despicable? For years, international negotiations have been moving forward on a treaty is to make it possible for people who are blind, or have other print disabilities like dyslexia, to get access to the books they need. At first, private interests were supportive. Then, they realized they could squeeze something out of this treaty that would greatly benefit them—stricter international copyright law.