As a librarian, I feel a deep fear of the direct threat to library funding posed by the new administration. However, as a philanthropy professional, I can’t help but feel some small amount of hope.
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As adults, we might cover our ears with our hands at a loud blast or use headphones or earbuds to curate the sounds we want to enter our eardrums, but sticking our fingers in our ears and yelling, “I can’t hear you!” is usually frowned upon. I’m not proud to say that at a recent team meeting, I did just that. Of course, I did so in jest, but it got me thinking about how easy it is to dismiss ideas that I don’t want to hear.
The Library of Congress (LC) sparked debate recently when it announced that it would no longer use the term illegal aliens as a subject heading. The library maintains that the phrase has become “pejorative,” a sentiment echoed by social justice projects such as Race Forward’s Drop the I-Word campaign. However, Republican lawmakers who introduced legislation to force the library to keep the term argue that the LC’s subject headings (LCSH) should be consistent with U.S. Code.
The Utah Library Association (ULA) dove headfirst into failure on February 19–20. Along with the Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL), ULA hosted Strikethrough: The Utah Library Association Failure Workshop. Billed as an interdisciplinary discussion of failure for librarians, it brought together librarians, medical doctors, and performance artists.
Until there is a body to take responsibility for reviewing LIS programs globally and granting the strong ones accreditation, a large number of librarians will be banned de facto from participating in our increasingly mobile information age economy. Having been a sometimes struggling expat myself (I lived in the UK and in Taiwan before Texas and the UAE), I know a little about trying to find work abroad; it can be a hell of a lot harder than it was for me, especially if you’re brown-skinned and English isn’t your first language. An international standard for accreditation for LIS degrees would go a long way toward fixing this for librarians in the eastern and southern hemispheres who want a fair shot at jobs in the northern and western hemispheres and in the complex, frustrating, bewildering, and lucrative Middle East.
In his Wall Street Journal (WSJ) January 11 op-ed piece, “In Age of Google, Librarians Get Shelved,” public librarian Steve Barker writes, “The role for librarians and public libraries is shrinking” because of emerging information technologies. Five respondents disagreed in letters to the editor reprinted a week later by calling attention to librarians’ ability to ferret out “higher-level information” and their capacity “to readily decipher between the relevant and irrelevant information” that has been made possible by the profession’s “metamorphic shift to information science.” And American Library Association (ALA) president Sari Feldman justifiably concludes, “At a time of information overload and growing gaps between digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ the roles for dynamic and engaged librarians are growing.”
The inconsistent treatment of readers’ advisory (RA) as a core service for adults in public libraries has led to inconsistent demand for quality RA education, which has further led to inconsistent service. Jennie Maas Flexner noted as far back as 1934 that the “need for specialized education is as evident in [readers’ advisory] work as in every other department of the library.” This is still true, and the need is still not being met. Two gaps prevent RA from being taught in a way that would make it the core public library service it should be.
Great strides have been made in bringing physical accessibility to buildings and public spaces, including libraries, since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. However, even after 25 years, much work still needs to be done in the area of providing persons with disabilities full access to these same spaces and resources, including digital counterparts.