The MLA Conference is a top attention getting event in the higher education media. But the unofficial and unrecognized MLA Subconference generated lots of buzz. What does it say about higher ed, and will it catch on?
THE One Book, One Community pick for 2013 at the Darien Library, CT, was David Benioff’s City of Thieves, in which the two main characters are charged to collect a dozen eggs in the starving city of Leningrad during the Nazi invasion. The penalty should they not complete this outrageous task is to forfeit their lives. As soon as I knew City of Thieves was the choice, I knew that we had to do a townwide scavenger hunt. It also seemed like a great opportunity to partner with and support local businesses.
The very concept of a “living library” captures the imagination. To serve the over 8,000 people in its district better, the Pine River Library in Colorado has made the idea a reality. There, the library literally embraces life in its program, with a vibrant 17,000 square foot outdoor space put to use as a community garden, learning space, greenhouse, and straw bale toolshed. It’s almost a green thumb version of a Maker space. It engages the community anew in the library—from the construction itself to the ongoing maintenance as the year turns. It exemplifies a holistic approach to service deployed inside and out to create a community hub for all seasons. Talk about vision.
At the next Library Technology Conference in the Twin Cities in March, there won’t be one session on privacy-protecting measures for library computers—there will be two. These aren’t the only sessions of their type I’ve seen advertised lately. I’m delighted to see information professionals stepping up to teach each other how best to protect ourselves and our patrons from unwarranted invasion of privacy by digital means. As it happens, another prime opportunity to register opposition to digital invasion of privacy will arrive on February 11. Several of the best advocacy organizations in the tech industry are joining forces with prominent websites and anyone else going their way for The Day We Fight Back.
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.
In a column called Peer to Peer Review, it’s appropriate to review our peers once in a while, so I’d like to discuss last week’s column by Rick Anderson on “science and religion in the library.” He’s not talking about the Qs and the Bs. In the column, Anderson writes: “For my purposes here, I’m going to define as ‘science’ those aspects of library work that deal with figuring out and describing things as they are, and as ‘religion’ those that deal with figuring out how things should be and why they should be that way.” My question is, why would he want to make such a distinction?
As I write this, ALA Midwinter is about to take place in Philadelphia. I’ve been hearing from friends and colleagues wanting to know if I’ll be attending the meeting, which I won’t. I haven’t been to an ALA conference in a while, and now I’m thinking about what it will take to get me to an ALA, whether annual or midwinter.
Let me start out by acknowledging that “Science and Religion in the Library” is a provocative subtitle, and to some degree it’s meant to be. Let me explain what I mean by it. For my purposes here, I’m going to define as “science” those aspects of library work that deal with figuring out and describing things as they are, and as “religion” those that deal with figuring out how things should be and why they should be that way. In the sense that I’m using the terms here, science is descriptive, and religion is prescriptive; science is involved with “is” questions, while religion is involved with “should” questions.