Posting to Autocat
On 09/09/2015 1.40, John Gordon Marr wrote:
You write: “They consider their speech more as ‘defending’ their country from harm as well as defending their culture, their communities, their values and so on.”? So do all self-obsessed elitists, like racists, misogynists, confederate-flag wavers, anti-immigration groups in general (throughout history), fascists, communists, hunters, “manifest-destiny” purveyors, anti-public-educationists, anti-science persons, propagandists, all “extremists.” At the very least, the perception offered in your quote cannot be allowed to stand unquestioned, particularly if “They” are not willing to describe the potential harms they perceive in empathetic and non-self-obsessive terms and discuss them in a practical, constructive manner appreciative of all aspects of predation.
Once again, I am not saying this is my opinion, but I respect those who hold opinions other than my own because I want others to respect me even though they may not agree with my opinions. Librarians cannot and should not mold the collection, or its catalog, to mirror their own preferred versions of “how the universe should be”. If there is serious debate on an issue, it should be the collection that reflects the debate and not by the librarian’s power either through his or her speech, through skewed selection, or through skewed catalog records. Once someone takes off “the librarian’s hat” and becomes a private citizen, then they can do anything they want but a librarian has certain responsibilities.
For instance, the collection-development librarians should not buy materials based only on their own opinions of what is right or wrong.
Example: at one institution I worked at, I noticed that there were classes taught about “Globalization” and the library had several books on that topic. I looked at them and found that all of the books in the library were anti-globalization. As it so happens, I am anti-globalization myself based on my own experiences and beliefs, but as the librarian, I saw a real problem. I decided to buy several books that were pro-globalization to make sure that people who were interested could gain a more balanced opinion of the topic. Of course, there was no way I would have ever bought those materials for my own collection at home or would read them myself, but as a librarian, I had other responsibilities.
I have already given examples of how the catalog was designed to provide a view onto the debates on different topics simply by bringing similar items together. (See the example of von Daniken) There is a genuine power in what seems so simple–that is, when the catalog is implemented correctly and used in the right ways. Unfortunately, the computerized catalogs have messed all that up and is why I propose other means for surmounting these types of problems.
In my opinion, in the current world of the Googles and algorithms, if cataloging (and libraries themselves) are to really survive as dynamic places to find answers to questions and to commune with the ideas of others, and not just as a place to get a free copy of a book or DVD that you found out about elsewhere, to get free access to the internet, or as a comfortable place to hear a public lecture and get a cup of coffee afterward–or even worse, as a museum of old books–if libraries are to survive as vital centers of thought, they must provide the public with something the Googles cannot and will not give them and catalogs should be a vital part of that.
Our aim of “objectivity” would be very popular if it was widely known. People have been screaming for it, and for quite awhile too. But our tools need to work quite differently than they do now.