March 17, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, March 15, 2013 Issue

Prove library diversity

As a preprofessional librarian of color, I appreciate the initiative taken by LJ’s editor to bring professional attention to the issue of diversity (Michael Kelley, “Diversity Never Happens,” Editorial, LJ 2/15/13, p. 8).

If librarians really want to see more diversity of library professionals, they must answer a hard question and answer it honestly: Do we really want diversity in our profession, or do we just want it to look good? From the overall tone and viewpoint of Kelley’s editorial, it seems like librarians just want to make themselves look good in the numbers. What I read there was plenty of statistical analysis and conclusive results but nothing that intimately describes the relationships that librarians seek to build with not just nonwhite patrons but nonwhite library professionals (those with an MLS/MLIS). I wished that Kelley had asked a few living African American (and other) library directors about what drove them to the field and what keeps them motivated.

Libraries must strengthen their relationships with underrepresented groups and use their voices as people—not just statistics to fill a quota. As long as we see people as “disadvantaged,” we will not see anything more. Market library and information science as a profession in communities where patrons don’t look like your average librarian. Highlight African American, Hispanic, Asian, and other movers and shakers in LJ (and put them on the cover). If there are other “untold well-intentioned programs” besides what ALA and ARL offer, make them “told” and well known. It might not be as simple as these solutions suggest, but show and prove that libraries earnestly connect with those they serve and that librarians are as diverse as their populations.

—D. Baker, Conway, SC

The wrong debate

Actually, what is wrong with that debate is that it really leads nowhere productive and in fact it is the wrong debate (John Berry, Blatant Berry, “The Mission Creeps Onward,” LJ 2/1/13, p. 10). The quality of video vis-à-vis film is hardly at the same level as the mission of the library, any more than whether a library having an app is going to save it. The major difference between past debates about the library’s mission and the issue today is that it never included the question of the relevance of the library, because in the past the library’s relevance was always a given—not any more.

Informing democracy has become everyone’s business—TV media, talk radio, bloggers, online magazines, and thousands of other “instant access” resources that are available 24-7 with which libraries cannot compete. Information literacy is not even an issue because most adults don’t care whether their information source is credible. Thank goodness schools are beginning to teach information literacy so that when young people become adults they may care about ­credibility.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the library’s mission has really become its relevance to the community it serves. If the local library is not relevant…to the community that supports it, it will not survive. Funding decision-makers will not continue to pour taxpayer dollars into an agency that does nothing to enhance the community in some way and has little or no return on its investment. Libraries must get out from under the mantle of traditional librarianship and become something more. Otherwise, “you have two, maybe three years…” before libraries become irrelevant.

—Stephen A. Matthews, Lib. Consultant,
Utah State Lib., Salt Lake City

Lackluster LIS program

Something quite disturbing is happening to my LIS program…. As of next semester, the program is going almost exclusively to online courses. Due to low enrollment of our courses on campus, the school has decided to move online in an attempt to keep the program alive. I understand this need, but at what cost will this be to the library and information science field?

Having taken both types of courses, I am convinced that face-to-face courses are the better option. Many of my classmates feel the same way. There are many ways that this move will be detrimental to the field and a few that are fundamental. Online courses limit the flow of ideas that occur naturally in a classroom. Some of my most illuminating learning experiences have come from heated class discussion. I have yet to have a heated class discussion from an online class. We need to feel united and passionate about our field. This passion is lacking from online courses. How are we as librarians supposed to convince our communities that we are an essential part of the community if we don’t, ourselves, believe it? It was in my courses on campus that I developed friendships with other SLIS students and learned that librarianship isn’t just about a love of books; it’s about a love of community and learning.

This is my last semester in the program, but I am concerned for the future of this field. If this transfer to online courses happens to other schools and grows into a common trend, then it is my belief that the LIS programs really will die because we will be placing lackluster librarians out into society.

—Krystal Taylor, LIS student, Indianapolis

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