May 25, 2015

Blatant Berry

They Taught Us To Listen: Lessons from new generations of librarians | Blatant Berry

John Berry III

Recently I ENJOYED a long-postponed lunch with two of my closest and most beloved colleagues from these past few decades. My connection with Nora Rawlinson, now running the incredibly useful selection and acquisitions website EarlyWord, began in arguments over whether libraries, through their book and materials acquisitions, should “give ’em what they want”—that is, buy for popular demand—or “give ’em what they need” by trying to select and acquire those items that qualify as classics, or essential information sources. Nora and I also disputed centralized vs. distributed book selection. Seeing Nora again reminded me that debates over library book and materials selection have been with us since the beginnings of the public library movement.

Keys to Transformation: Community engagement and fiscal realism | Blatant Berry

John Berry III

Two keys to success become apparent when you review the transformations so many libraries have achieved in recent years. The most important is community involvement, and that means much more than simple publicity, marketing, and fundraising efforts. It has meant making community leaders and all residents an integral part of the planning and execution of the library’s whole turnabout—from early in the process until it is finished—which ensures their interest, satisfaction with the result, civic pride, and continued participation.

Watching the Future: New activism tells people what libraries offer | Blatant Berry

John Berry III

The future of the American public library is taking shape. I see it in all kinds of libraries. The public, politicians, and local and national media are now noticing the relevance and central role of these libraries. These institutions are delivering a trusted set of up-to-date programs and services and that has earned a far more positive public and political reaction than the one enjoyed by most other agencies of the local, state, and federal governments.

Public Management Is Tougher: Tech drives increased need for libraries | Blatant Berry

John Berry III

My optimistic aging memory had me waiting for the economy to do what it used to do and recover enough so that the public and private nonprofit sectors by which most libraries are funded would catch up with the already recovered private sector. So I was a bit taken aback when Siobhan Reardon, the president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia and LJ’s 2015 Librarian of the Year, told me that wasn’t going to happen.

Repair or Replace ALA/APA!: Professional organization or tax dodge? | Blatant Berry

John Berry III

The American Library Association’s (ALA)Allied Professional Association (APA) recently sent a message to the members of the ALA Council and other “member leaders.” With the help of Al Kagan, who represents ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table on Council, we saw the message and were reminded that since APA’s founding in 2001, we have never fully understood what it is or does, whether it is a real association or just a tax dodge.

Money Still Talks!: ALA’s endowment must support its values | Blatant Berry

John Berry III

A few weeks ago several events converged to drive home to me the realization that problems of climate change, global warming, carbon emissions, and a fouled environment, already urgent and dangerous, were accelerating so fast that it’s already too late to correct them.

Careers for Info Utopia: The optimism of a new semester | Blatant Berry

John Berry III

The beginning of each semester always rejuvenates me. There is nothing more stimulating than those first few sessions with a class of expectant students, arriving with their high energy, curiosity, and desire to participate and impress. My new class at Pratt Institute’s SILS came to New York from all over America and the world. The students range in age from their 20s to their 60s, which has so often been typical of my LIS classes. It is a great privilege and honor to work with them to try to answer the accursed questions that continue to plague our profession.

Politics & Libraries: Every great librarian is a politician | Blatant Berry

In a collection of old political campaign buttons I found a pink one with the number “321.8” across it in dark blue. The discovery triggered memories of activist times in librarianship four to five decades ago. In our view then, the Dewey number 321.8 was the classification for “participatory democracy,” the system of government in which our small cadre of librarians believed. We were one of dozens of groups that formed within the new Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA). We believed, as I still do, that good librarians are politically enmeshed in the larger national and international issues of war, peace, social justice, and the vital role of good government in human affairs. We even tried to convince our professional organizations publicly to support our positions and amplify our voice on these issues. Sometimes we were successful.

It Is My Library! The public can change your mind | Blatant Berry

John Berry III

Although it is often perceived as interference, or “meddling,” the presumption of ownership by people who live in the jurisdiction of a local public library and their resulting strong opinions about how the place should operate are assets to be nurtured and treasured. Yes, the phenomenon regularly causes disputes about library policies and purposes and makes for controversial community debate. Indeed, library professionals and managers are frequently forced by public opinion, bolstered by media coverage, to operate libraries in ways quite different from their preferred practices.

Vive la différence! | Blatant Berry

John Berry III

Every library is unique. Despite all the decades of work trying to standardize library operations, systems, collection organization, buildings, human resource management, governance, and even collection development, each library still differs from every other library. While few librarians would argue that point, it is obvious that a great deal of effort has been expended to make the practice of librarianship more homogeneous.