I’ve been thinking all day about how best to blog Michael Gorman’s keynote address this morning to the Indiana Library Federation (ILF). Gorman is, of course, ALA’s president-elect and dean of libraries at Fresno State University. I’ve actually been in Fresno a couple of times, albeit not recently, and I confess to having difficulties envisioning this semi-Americanized Brit in that uniquely California environment.
Gorman’s topic for the day was values. What are the values that underly the work librarians do? He expressed some disappointment that ALA task forces had been working on this for way too long and noted that it’s hard to come up with anything that’s snappy and laden with meaning when it’s constructed by a committee. No argument from me there. Then he expressed the dilemmas that strike to the heart of the library profession. What’s wrong when a profession can’t state what it believes in and can’t even agree on a set of core competencies? Wow. Strong words. He then said that the task forces had trouble distinguishing between values and desirable outcomes. That’s a crucial distinction, which Gorman said “transcends semantics.”
Here’s a thought provoking idea. If we don’t have a cluster of beliefs shared by all librarians, are we really a profession? Although I firmly believe that Gorman and I don’t share the same nuances about beliefs and values, I do think that, given the values he articulated during his talk, we can agree on broad principles.
Here’s the nine values he shared:
“Only librarians and archivists are concerned with transmitting the past to the future”, ensuring that each generation knows at least as much as the last. We learn by experience, by interacting with people who know more than we do, and by interacting with human record (reading, viewing images, listening to music, etc.).
Librarians don’t enter the profession for glory or money. We should judge every action we take in terms of how it facilitates service to our community.
3. Intellectual freedom.
Individuals are entitled to think and believe whatever they wish.
Sedition is making a comeback and blasphemy can’t be far behind
Intellectual freedom is natural to us, censorship is anathema to us
4. Equity of access
Inextricably linked to intellectual freedom, the digital divide is part of a societal divide. Ideal library of future will be one where access will be freely available regardless of money or technological sophistication.
Increasingly there are wholesale assaults on privacy. Open stacks are one of the great things about America.
6. Literacy and learning.
Libraries are essential part of culture of learning. Literacy is a lifelong process in which you become more able to interact with complex texts.
OK, here I parted company with Gorman. To equate literacy with printed materials only negates all that I heard last week at CIL about variant ways that people learn. I’d love to hear a debate between Michael Gorman and Stephen Abrams. At least they’d agree on the political jokes.
We stand for individual pursuing whatever pursuit he or she wants. We’re a supremely rational profession. OK, and here I’m not so sure he meets his own definition.
The best antidote to TV is well-reasoned book or article. Libaries grow and prosper in democracy.
9. The public good.
This is the value he did not include in his latest book, but thinks it’s very important. There’s a conflict between unfettered individualism and the public good.
You know, they’re good values. If he just wouldn’t come out with techno-zingers that threaten his credibility, you’d feel fine about all this. He expressed several times his reluctance to embrace digitalization of books and documents. Hey, here’s another pairing opportunity – Gorman with Public Printer Bruce James, who wants to digitize all government documents.
Gorman’s antagonism towards Google I just don’t understand. More people know how to use Google than know where their public library is. That’s not to be laughed at, that’s a real challenge to the library profession. Digitizing things isn’t “atomizing” them. And kids do read. At least mine do.
Oh, and he never said the word blogger during the entire talk.