Public libraries | Democracy | Activism | Library services
by Brendan Howley
Fifty-six years ago, on Jan. 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy put millions of Americans to a very particular test: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Kennedy’s call to action has the feel of a different time—of a different America—when libraries were reverential places where books came and went in silence, except for the soft thump of the librarian’s rubber stamp on the due date card.
Welcome to the battered U.S. social compact of 2017, the centenary of Kennedy’s birth. Perhaps never since the chaos of the civil rights movement slamming into the nascent resistance of the Vietnam War has America been so darkly, damagingly split. Culturally, politically, emotionally, and even spiritually, the country has precious little common ground.
Libraries are that common ground. Moreover, they at once stand apart from their communities—as trusted repositories of a community’s past and intellectually honest resources for the community’s future—and couldn’t be closer to the day-to-day pulse of community life. They aren’t alone as essential services: Museums and hospitals, each in their own ways, serve vital needs of identity and care. But libraries are custodians of the very fabric of society, because they nurture discovery, self-worth, and belief in possibility, and they share the tools to make social goods manifest.
And libraries share something else, something intangible that needs to be made tangible: inclusivity. Libraries serve everyone without distinction. Standing up to the Department of Homeland Security, which Edward Snowden cheered in a now-famous tweet, a New Hampshire public library and its community—with the help of the Library Freedom Project—protected their patrons’ privacy by installing an anonymous internet browsing network. This is no small thing—and I write this as someone who, in his past life, was an investigative journalist specializing in intelligence and counterintelligence matters. Read more…
Center for the Future of Libraries | Library Trends | Core Library Values
For many futurists and trend spotters, “futuring” is fundamentally about the study of change.
“We can learn a great deal about what may happen in the future by looking systematically at what is actually happening now,” wrote Edward Cornish, one of the founders of the World Future Society.
We study change so we can prepare for the many futures that might happen. We start seeing what’s coming next. We study so that we won’t be surprised. And we study so that we’ll be better prepared to start creating the future.
That’s good news for library and information professionals. We are expert in finding, organizing, processing, and prioritizing information. From wherever we are in our organizations, we all have opportunities to observe changes in our communities and consider the implications over the long term.
But observation is simply not enough. One of the biggest lessons my colleagues and I have learned while developing the Center for the Future of Libraries is that studying change is useless without considering values. We need to look at trends and changes with consideration of our own professional values (confidentiality and privacy, diversity, equitable access, intellectual freedom and expression, preservation) and the values that we seek to provide to our communities (a civic commons, democracy, discovery, education and literacy, public discourse). And so, looking at changes, we need to ask ourselves what they might mean for intellectual freedom, for education, for equitable access, or for any of the other values that drive our work. Read more….
Librarians | Activism | Social justice
Feb 20 2017 5:23 PM
Photo by B. Harvey via Stocksy
Though some people may think the job involves more shushing than rallying, many librarians consider “making America read again” to be a radical political proposition.
When Audrey Lorberfeld woke up in her Brooklyn apartment on Saturday, January 28, she was, like much of the country, angry. In the first week of his presidency, Donald Trump had already signed executive orders reinstating an expanded global gag rule, calling for the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico, reopening the possibility of the Dakota Access pipeline, and, on Friday, January 27, barring any travelers into the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Within hours of the order’s signing, two Iraqis who’d flown into JFK—53-year-old Hameed Khalid Darweesh, arriving from Iraq, and 33-year-old Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, arriving from Sweden—were detained. Overnight, while lawyers representing the two refugees worked to file a suit for their release, news of their detention spread, and by 11 AM on Saturday, organizations like the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) had put out a call for protesters outside JFK’s Terminal 4.