February 17, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, February 1, 2015 Issue

“Membership in ALA must mean something not only to librarians but to everyone in the community…. [but] fewer of us seem to see the value”

Not just APA

John Berry responded to a message from the Allied Professional Association (APA) to its counsel: “It is time to get on with the work [we] were created to do…. It is time to reinvent APA…to ensure that the nation knows how important libraries are to an informed citizenry.”

Berry refers to APA, but the sentiment can be extrapolated into its parent organization, [the American Library Association (ALA)]. Colleagues and I have been questioning the merit of having ALA, and those outside our profession are often surprised to learn there even exists such an organization. This is unfortunate. Even more unfortunate is that some of us no longer try to explain ALA to outsiders because, quite frankly, we are not certain of its role in our profession.

To some of us, stating membership on our résumés is not enough to justify the expense of joining. Membership in ALA must mean something not only to librarians but to everyone in the community. The meaning and prestige of being a member of ALA is understood only by us, and fewer of us seem to see the value. Many also know from experience that despite ALA’s claim that it needs us, becoming involved can be a difficult door to open and requires more time and travel than we have to give.

ALA must provide more than online resources, conferences, and organizations. More critical is active guidance in every state from those who serve in ALA leadership to raise all of us up in the profession and to change the minds of those who see no value in libraries. For that to happen, the leadership of ALA must not assume that the rest of us truly understand why they want us to join.

—Keyth Sokol, Cincinnati

Words to live by

I have a Post-it note near my computer that I look at every day. On it are a couple of words from Howard Gardner (the multiple intelligence guy). The words are “transactional” v. “transformational.” He uses them when discussing the changing nature of communication, and I extrapolate to the changing nature of libraries.

They aren’t magical, but they have been a guiding force for me when I have taught a class, met a struggling grad student, or showed a student how to find a book. They have become my tenet; my reminder that every interaction is an opportunity to affect lives in positive and affirming ways. Sadly, however, by misaligning their priorities, many academic libraries have lost sight of which word is supposed to be leading this tango.

Certainly, these ideas are not ­mutually exclusive. They are, in a good sense, codependent; each relies on the other for support and progress. Yet our profession’s current emphasis on “transaction” (gate counts, Libstats, ebook downloads, chat reference) endangers the chance that “transformation” can even take place. ­Every generation of student from now on will see the library as a coffee shop surrounded by a bunch of books; hardly a place where lives are transformed.

—Ross T. LaBaugh, Libn. Emeritus, Henry Madden Lib., California State Univ., Fresno

Libraries are Charlie

Thanks a lot, David Lankes [for “Charlie Hebdo“]. As a French librarian, I felt deep emotion when I heard the news.

First, we tweeted a link to the catalog record of Charlie Hebdo on the Twitter feed of the library. We made and exposed a selection of journal archives and books by Cabu, George Wolinski, and Bernard Maris. Almost all were borrowed within 24 hours.

The day after we exposed the front page of all newspapers. I wrote an editorial on the library site with a great picture from #charliehebdo saying. “The Ducks (French slang for newspaper) always fly higher than the guns” and posted the drawing to our Facebook pages. We had an exhibit with a Wolinski photograph by Claude Dityvon and a fantastic original drawing of Wolinski.

At midday on January 8, we held a moment of silence (like everywhere in France). We invited all the students to come into the exposition room to share this moment together, and around 200 students gathered. It was really moving. We translated your editorial into French and shared it on social media and ask every library who tried to do something for their communities after #charlie to share it on Twitter with the hashtag ­#bibenaction. If American librarians did something, please, help us to know and to share your actions by tagging your blog posts or tweets!

—Nathalie Clot, Univ. of Angers, France


Owing to a typographical error, the social sciences review of Debi Unger et al.’s George Marshall: A Biography (LJ 10/15/14, p. 106) misidentified Marshall as army chief of staff during World War I. Of course, he was army chief of staff during World War II and the originator of the 1948 Marshall Plan. LJ apologizes for the error.

The review of Understanding Minecraft: Essays on Play, Community, and Possibilities (LJ 11/15/14, p. 107) credits Nate Garrelts as the author. Garrelts is the work’s editor. LJ regrets the error.

This article was published in Library Journal's February 1, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.