February 17, 2018

Rachel Bridgewater | Movers & Shakers 2007

Give Us Liberty

When Rachel Bridgewater says, ‘Jello Biafra made me a librarian,’ she’s not entirely joking. She credits his arguments against Tipper Gore’s Parents’ Music Resource Center for shaping her ‘budding understanding of censorship, free speech, and the appropriate role of government.’

As a reference librarian at Washington State University – Vancouver, she’s concerned that free exchange of information is unduly hampered by limitations on fair use. She has cotaught online courses on copyright issues for academic librarians and has organized a series of ‘Copy Nights,’ where librarians, software engineers, writers, and musicians can talk about their copyright concerns.

Bridgewater believes the means of expression also matter. A former software developer, she brings technical expertise to her frequent speeches and articles on the uses of Web 2.0 tools in libraries. She doesn’t urge everyone to use them but does insist that librarians understand them in order ‘to make informed decisions about what you do need to implement.’ Since librarians’ skill in information retrieval is based on a ‘deep knowledge of how information is created,’ she says, she fears that if librarians don’t ‘understand at that same level how information production and use differ in a world suffused with social software, we run the risk of losing our relevance.’

Earnest though she can be, Bridgewater considers herself a ‘super-goofy, geeky person’ whose job description is ‘specialist at poking into everything.’ She hopes to spend her career doing ‘all kinds of cool and interesting things I can’t even imagine right now,’ so who knows what cause is next?


CURRENT POSITION Reference Coordinator, Washington State University – Vancouver

DEGREES MLS, Emporia State University, 2004

PARTICIPANT American Library Association Emerging Leaders program, 2007

BACKSTAGE PASS Toured the world as nanny to a rock star’s children