Re: A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 15/08/2011 19:43, john g marr wrote:

The problem, if one takes note of how easily the media and people in general can be manipulated and made thoroughly self-interested, is that “directions” coming from those having the most power to issue them (and enforce them) would be those that would be followed. So, the question becomes: how will “libraries” (in a modernized form) encourage their own use to perpetuate fact, individuality, innovation, curiosity, skepticism and critical thinking? To do that, and to perpetuate their own relevance beyond supporting conformity, they will have to become proactive now.

Since moving to Italy, I have been amazed at the number of younger students from the US who insist that they must pierce or tatoo themselves in order to demonstrate their own individuality! (I know I am leaving myself open to those younger out there, but so be it, and in fact lately, I have seen it in other nationalities too) The moment you leave the US, you discover that many who insist the loudest that they want to be “individuals” can be most easily pointed to by others as “Americans”. There is certainly nothing wrong with being immediately  seen as an American, a Brit, an Italian, a German, or whatever, but the concept of how this relates to “individuality” must be reconsidered.

While I believe that librarians should be active politically as individuals, I am very hesitant to suggest that *librarianship as a profession* should become political. I have my own political beliefs and I hold to them very strongly. Sometimes, I may accidentally reveal a few of them in some postings, in spite of my attempts to hide them. This is not that I am afraid of expressing myself or anything like that, but that “librarianship as a profession” should include people of all political persuasions (at least, I hope it does!). So, while I hope almost every librarian subscribes to the overwhelming majority of the ALA Code of Ethics, we should not believe that all librarians adhere to the same political beliefs. (Yes, I don’t agree with all of these myself!)

The fundamental purpose of librarianship is to help people find the information they need. To clarify this extremely vague goal, most librarians will probably decide that, when it comes to adults, *those adult as individuals* are the ones who should decide *for themselves* whether some bit of information is the truth or a lie, and they can use any method they want to determine it: critical thinking, skepticism, religion, kabbalah, a ouija board, a dart board, listening to Glenn Beck or Noam Chomsky. This is entirely their own affair and the librarian’s political opinions (and they have them!) absolutely must remain completely irrelevant.

Therefore, I think it is really important *not* to believe that all librarians represent a single political ideal since they neither represent a single political entity, nor should they. The moment they do speak out politically, they can become isolated by someone, somewhere, and at the same time they alienate a large number of the members of their own profession. While I may have some sympathy with your stance, I think that if librarianship adopted it, it would be detrimental to the profession.