A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities, includes this finding: “Some 90 percent of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, with 63 percent saying it would have a ‘major’ impact.” What’s intriguing is that only 29 percent reported that it would have a major impact on the respondent and respondent’s family. In other words, 90 percent of folks do not want the library to close, but many fewer would feel the negative consequences.
The becomingly modest thing to say would be “you probably don’t remember me,” but in fact I think there’s a good chance you do. In the early 1970s, when I was between the ages of seven and eleven or so, I was a regular visitor to the children’s room located in the basement of the Dallin Branch of Robbins Library in Arlington, MA, where you were the children’s librarian. I want to take this chance to thank you publicly for your kindness, your patience, and your help. You significantly shaped my idea of what a librarian should be like, and I will always remember you and be grateful.
Now is the time to find, create, or build the will to secure net neutrality, instilling in policy the equitable access to the Internet we have come to rely on as a society. Last month’s ruling against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denied the body’s authority to regulate Internet service providers (ISPs) as if they were common carriers without designating them as such. The decision releases ISPs to do as they please in developing commercial interests and threatens to allow the usurpation of the essential public resource the Internet has become.
I count myself incredibly lucky for the library school I attended: what was then the SUNY Albany School of Library and Information Science and is now the SUNY Albany College of Computing & Information. This is mainly because of the faculty with whom I was able to study, including my advisor and mentor, Bill Katz, who, among other things, taught real-world librarianship as he had experienced it. He taught us reference work pretty much as if we were reporters working on a red-hot story as well as detectives digging up the salient facts for that story. But the most crucial thing Bill taught me was that, as a reference librarian, my most important working resource would be people.
Facebook just turned ten years old. A lot has changed in that decade. We’ve grown accustomed to sharing details of our lives through a single platform that tracks our likes, dislikes, friendships, and interests, and follows us when we leave the site to browse the web. We’ve gotten used to using our Facebook login to sign up for other services. We’ve grown resigned (to the point of indifference) to the panopticon that corporations like Facebook have created by using our activity on the Internet as our window on the world and their big-data window into ours.
Letters to the editor from the February 1, 2014, issue of Library Journal
Nature has built in two important responses for human beings and other animals facing danger, which psychologists call the fight and the flight reflexes. Depending on the nature of the threat, either choice might be sensible in a specific context. This all came to mind during a conversation a couple of weeks ago with Chris Bourg, the Associate University Librarian for Public Services at Stanford. She spoke to Duke’s Seminar on the Research Library about the threat to libraries from neoliberal thinking in higher education. Chris’ talk was very interesting and challenging. I am not sure I entirely agree with her. But the part of the conversation I want to focus on is how librarians respond to a sense of crisis in our profession.
It took me a FEW years in a public library to acknowledge that I had entered a career and wasn’t just doing a job. It was a long time ago. I had finished college with an AB and what we called a “gut” major in history. I applied for and won a job in the small Reading Public Library, MA. Despite my lack of credentials, I was given the title of Youth/Reference Librarian. Relieved to be employed, I started to learn what a public library does, or did in those predigital times.