Our Main Purpose

From Chapter 3 “Human Rights, Democracy and Librarians” by Kathleen de la Pena McCook & Katharine Phenix in The Portable MLIS:

If librarians don’t keep touching base, looking back, remembering the big picture of our main purpose, which is to keep information freely flowing, take tax dollars, and give our communities (in the broadest sense) what they want and what they need, we will lose it all. We will overdue fine our public until they don’t dare come in, buy books the loudest patrons clamor for until we have created a library just for the few and the loudest. We will purchase the titles vendors tell us to(who are in turn told what to publish by their corporate HQs), accept only the Web sites our corporate controlled filters filter and hire the library staff that gets along with us.

This passage, which I read aloud in my class last night as we closed, knocks me out. Well said. Poetry.

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3 thoughts on “Our Main Purpose”

  1. Are we then, to buy materials on limited budgets that our users don’t want? Are we to allow patrons to check out materials and never return them, or return them so late that we’ve been forced to purchase replacements? Are we to purchase materials sans reviews? Are we to inculcate young library minds with the belief that only those of you who teach at institutions of higher learning actually know what it’s like to work in a public library, with staff who actually have to answer to their community — no such thing as tenure in a public setting?

    Come on Michael, I love most of what you blog about, but sometimes you gotta get your head out of the frigging academic clouds and join the rest of us in the trenches.

    You love the idea of no filters, but I seriously doubt you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a mother’s rath when her pre-teen daughter and her were sujected to the most brutal porn you can imagine — all because the a**hole on the internet terminal next to her didn’t give a sh** about what other’s thought.

    It’s also obvious you never had to try to defend an idiot’s right to read to a weeping mother. During those points in time our basic freedom to read/protected speech BS gets a little thin. I’ve been there have you?

    I’d love to have tenure and not have to answer to anyone, but I don’t.
    have it and I have to answer to a city coucil that answers to outraged mothers.

    I have to live in the real world. So you keep telling your little library tweets that they have an obligation to never buckle under to any kind of societal pressure because they have a greater cause — that of defending the constitution. They’ll learn what really happens once they get out from under the BS being taught in library school.

    JeeZ You guys crack me up.

    Read this aloud to your class so they can know what life in the real world is like.

  2. @meToo

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Michael’s years of experience as a public librarian enlighten our learning as students at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. It’s obvious in his teachings that his philosophies of librarianship and public service have been molded around his tenure as a servant in librarianship. Additionally, his travels nationally and internationally have awarded him the opportunity to gather stories and hear the woes and triumphs of other public librarians – something I’m positive he mulls over as he crafts his lectures. To say that he is stuck in “the friggin academic clouds” is ignorant and rude.

    Your critical speech, while allowed by the first amendment, should simply be ignored since you do not have the courage to put your own name and reputation on the line. You want to be oppositional? Fine – you have that right. But be a professional and put your name and reputation behind your words. That’s what I do. That’s what Michael does.

  3. I have been confronted by all sorts, and though I regularly keep my head and arse in the academic cloud, I still don’t forget reality. And, reality is that you must keep informed by the core of your intentions, purposes,philosophies, and BIG picture. Whether you can pull off the best of your intentions etc, is another matter. To deny the core value because your reality is shitty, or different, or what have you, is to fall to the lowest common denominator….which is usually accompanied by a “Closed Until Further Notice” sign hanging on your door.

    Get a grip and handle the outraged mom, or pissed off junkie who is bleeding in your bathroom, or the homeless asleep on your bench, or the kid lost because his mom figures the library is a kindergarden….but hold to the principles or you are worse than useless as a librarian.

    in my opinion, anyways.

    h

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