I have a theory that too many library trustees are underutilized in their board work. In far too many libraries, fear of meddling and of losing control have meant that directors don’t take advantage of the expertise and talent on their Board of Trustees. Where that is true, library leaders are squandering critical capacity and losing a potent edge in the key task of connecting to the community.
Letters to the editor on weeding, deleting seldom-used web content, and leadership from the June 1 issue of Library Journal.
Throughout the United States and Canada, there are more than 63 ALA-accredited programs offering advanced degrees in library and information science. While the number of programs has grown over the years, the field has yet to develop any significant, rigorous measures of evaluation to assess them. Even as interest in LIS education grows, the tools for determining which programs will match a student’s goals or establishing a hierarchy of quality remain stuck in neutral.
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.
I’ve written before about what I called the two cultures that sometimes clash, the commercial culture of a lot of scientific publishing and the gift culture of academia. In addition to clashes of culture, there are clashes of values. Thanks to the recent brouhaha surrounding the Taylor & Francis journal Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation, another clash of values has emerged, that of academics editing a journal to encourage debate and that of commercial publishers trying to stifle debate about their methods.
For patrons who live in rural areas, finding the book they want is not always easy. The local library can’t collect everything, and interlibrary loan (ILL) can be slow to deliver, if it is even available. Purchase and fast shipping from Internet booksellers like Amazon.com offer an alternative, but not everyone can afford it. Now, the California State Library (CSL) has embarked on a pilot project to redress that situation.
At our high school library, in central Texas, usage stats were way down, both for services and reading of books. To change that quickly, in my first year at the school (2008) I began “Open Mic Night.” Basically, on a Friday night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., students, teachers, parents, and friends could enjoy coffee and snacks at the library while watching five-minute performances on stage. I added the caveat “school-appropriate.”
Is there any applause line in our profession more tried and true than the assertion that “libraries are essential?” The problem with such statements is not that they’re wrong. It is that they pose a danger: they all threaten to leave us complacent about our future. What will determine our future is not whether we and our services are essential in fact, but whether we are seen by our stakeholders as more essential than the other essential programs and projects that are competing for the same resources.
Last week I enjoyed one of my favorite times of the year: Commencement Week at Harvard. I love it then because so many students bring their parents and families into the libraries to see the glorious resources to which they’ve had access during their studies here. There’s a definite feeling of excitement in the air, and both the parents and students are absolutely sparkling with energy and lively interest. Serving at the Information Desk I get to meet lots of these folks, and I enjoy answering the myriad questions they pose.