How values guide our understanding of trends and transition

Center for the Future of Libraries | Library Trends | Core Library Values

future-web

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….

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Stand, Fight, Resist

 

December 16, 2016

 

The idea that libraries are neutral spaces has been well and disabused over the last few years. From the services we offer to the collections that we curate, the decisions that libraries and librarians make are political ones that reflect values. Sometimes those are the values of the organization, sometimes the values of the individuals, and sometimes they are the values of the communities that the library serves. Those values are illustrated by our technologies, our ontologies, and our descriptors. Those who attempt to hold that “neutrality” of information access is an ideal for which to strive have had a hard time holding to that stance as increasing numbers of librarians question and deconstruct our profession. I would like to suggest something even stronger…that even if it were possible for libraries to be neutral spaces, that to create such a space would be morally questionable, and potentially actively morally wrong.

I say this as someone who firmly believes in the maxim of combating bad speech with more speech. I am not here advocating controls or restrictions on speech. But it is not the responsibility of every library to collect and distribute literature of hate, or falsehoods, or lies. Some libraries do need to collect everything, the good and the bad, for archival and historical study purposes, but those libraries are fairly obviously identified in practice and the vast majority of libraries should and could take a stand with their actions, programs, policies, and collections to be on the side of justice and scientific fact.

Neutrality favors the powerful, and further marginalizes the marginalized. In the face of the current political climate, with the use of opinions as bludgeons and disinformation as the weapon of choice for manipulation and intellectual coercion, it is up to those who value fact and believe in the care of those in need to stand up and positively affirm that to do otherwise is evil.

I say this as someone who firmly believes in the maxim of combating bad speech with more speech. I am not here advocating controls or restrictions on speech. But it is not the responsibility of every library to collect and distribute literature of hate, or falsehoods, or lies. Some libraries do need to collect everything, the good and the bad, for archival and historical study purposes, but those libraries are fairly obviously identified in practice and the vast majority of libraries should and could take a stand with their actions, programs, policies, and collections to be on the side of justice and scientific fact.

Neutrality favors the powerful, and further marginalizes the marginalized. In the face of the current political climate, with the use of opinions as bludgeons and disinformation as the weapon of choice for manipulation and intellectual coercion, it is up to those who value fact and believe in the care of those in need to stand up and positively affirm that to do otherwise is evil. Read article