Re: A sad Friday

Posting to Autocat

On 05/05/2011 11:49 PM, john g marr wrote:

On Thu, 5 May 2011, Marian Veld wrote:

… there are things in life of more basic importance than education, like public safety and adequate food supply.

“Public safety” seems to have become little more than a scare and power tactic. There’s always going to be a threat from a few, despite airport strip-searches, so why disrupt the entire economy and social ethic over it (unless one wants to, as bin Laden intended: make people worry instead of being educated)? As for “natural” disasters, we could mitigate their effects with education instead of draining the budget reacting to them (same goes for media manipulation).


It seems to me that this kind of discussion mirrors what I hear of people talking about FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) vs. the World Food Programme (WFP). WFP concentrates on emergencies, where because of something beyond anyone’s control like tsunamis or wars, people are suffering from a *temporary* lack of the basics, such as food and water. Obviously, this is the most important part to concentrate on since otherwise, people will die if you don’t act fast.

FAO seeks to solve problems in the *long term*. This involves massive amounts of discussion, debate, and disagreement. These kinds of changes are less pressing than the emergencies WFP deals with, but they are also more difficult since these involve much deeper and long-lasting changes. People who are currently in power very often do not like the idea of real change and will do whatever they have to do to retain their power. A temporary emergency is one thing, long-term change is completely different. None of this should be surprising to anyone, but as a result, many see WFP as the “can-do” organization, while FAO is the “blah-blah” organization, yet this is incorrect. Both face their own unique difficulties.

For those who are interested, I discussed this concept of “sustainability” at some length in my podcast “The Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, a personal journey, Part 3”

So, if a community is faced with the fact that there simply *is not enough money*, this is an emergency. Something absolutely must be cut, so what do you cut? Whatever you do will hurt someone. Do you cut police or fire protection, or the library? What about food and shelter for the poor? Unfortunately, I think I know what will happen to libraries.

Yet it is important to realize this is not (or at least should not be) a long-term solution. The main idea when facing an emergency is survival, both as individuals and as a profession. But while we are facing an emergency, there is also the long-term issue of “sustainability”, and I also do not think we have seen the worst. Yet, this doesn’t mean that we give up–we need to CHANGE!