February 17, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, February 1, 2016 Issue

“How to balance the utility vs. warehousing concepts as librarians struggle…to integrate…library service …into the life and work of their community”

Utilities for survival

The quiet time that occasionally comes with retirement…brought me back to my conversation with Rebecca Miller about Roger Greer, who had just died when she was here in Chattanooga last year. We were talking about how there is not much all that new in library services.

Miller’s insightful editorial (“From Patchwork to Network,” LJ 12/15, p. 8;) actually extended and amplified thoughts pulled together by Greer and Robert Grover in their unpublished 1994 paper, “Libraries as Public Information Utilities: An Imperative for Survival.” They had expressed the utility idea in a variety of ways earlier, but this was an attempt to pull it together in one place:

To assure survival in troubled times, public libraries must be integral to their community’s cultural and economic well-being. Libraries should become public information utilities, providing customized information services to satisfy the needs of [their] actual and potential customers. The survival of libraries remains in the hands of librarians.

Your infrastructure concept is a terrific way of helping to think about how to balance the utility vs. warehousing concepts as librarians struggle with how to be better understood and to integrate their library service thoroughly into the life and work of their community….

The ever-prolific Herb White wrote (in 1990), “Librarians cannot continue to give library users what they want. The professional’s responsibility is to provide what users need, and need cannot be defined as request.”

And as Peter Drucker wrote, “Managers only get credit for two things: innovation and marketing.”…

—Donald Reynolds, Talbott, TN

Big conference value

As much as I love state and regional conferences…I also think there’s a value in national and international conferences (­Michael Stephens, “Conference Call,” Office Hours, LJ 1/16, p. 50). The small conferences (Urban Libraries Unite is a great example) give an intimate atmosphere that encourages collaboration. But IFLA or ALA provide opportunity for a broader view and to talk with colleagues who are having quite different experiences. That type of library conference [is] wonderful, but I wouldn’t want, over time, to be isolated from academic, school, or special library workers. Galas, swag, those kinds of things can and should change.

—Dale McNeill, Asst. Dir. for Public Svcs., San Antonio P.L.

ESEA no big win

Perhaps it can be seen as a victory of sorts that the terms school libraries and school librarians were at least included in this new bill, but as an actual school librarian of 27 years I really see no big wins here for my profession (Rebecca T. Miller, “A Win for All,” Editorial, LJ 1/16, p. 8). Yes, school librarians are included (along with a long list of other school employees, including paraprofessionals) when ESEA describes grants and supports that may be offered to support literacy. And, yes, ESEA funding may be directed to school libraries, but this is just one choice among many…. When school library funding is a choice and money is tight, often…the money [goes] elsewhere. Also, while ESEA does mention the importance of quality school libraries, there are no specifics on what constitutes such a program…. Nor are there any provisions that actually require school libraries to be staffed by professional librarians. For those of us in the trenches, this bill simply does not go far enough….

Although technically hired as a middle school library media specialist, I’m required to teach classes…and am only given about an hour a day to develop…a “quality library program.” All our elementary school libraries are staffed with low-paid paraprofessionals…. The school librarian will soon be extinct, and no one seems to care. So forgive me if I see nothing to crow about with the passage of ESEA.

—Cathy Sutton, Noblesville, IN

Changing academic UX

The move into the Learning Commons at Marywood and the addition of the automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) has drastically changed the user experience (Steven Bell, “One Technology That Will Change the Academic Library Experience,” From the Bell Tower). Students are still defining the space and learning how to access materials from the ASRS…. As someone in the information business, I believe we need to start elevating other forms of information transfer, [which] is hard to swallow for faculty. The monograph’s status is changing; it is no longer the “top dog.” Kevin Kelly touched on this in his talk “The Technium for Edge.org”: “We are going to make something other…. It’s [not] a matter of either it’s going to be books or video; neither of those are really going to work.”

So what is going to work? I am not sure, but central to knowledge growth is information exchange and collaboration. We have the space in the Marywood Learning Commons now. It is exciting to be a part of it!

—Leslie Worrell Christianson, User Svcs. Libn., Marywood Univ., Scranton, PA

This article was published in Library Journal's February 1, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.