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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

21st century librarianship

I've been spending the morning listening to my Wisconsin colleagues try to work up a five year vision. And it occurred to me that there was a more succinct way to address my keynote topic: the 20th century library was library-centric; the 21st century library needs to be community-centric.

This is not, necessarily, to be passionate advocates for social justice, although it might be that on occasion. The problem with some Big Causes is that they can paralyze: "how can we deliver quality library services when we still have poverty in the world?" And we do have poverty, and it must indeed be tackled. But the urgent issue is this: the library has to assess key issues in its community, and address those where it can make a significant improvement, not just a statement.

Similarly, there is a tendency among librarians to say "how can we go out to the community when we have yet to understand each other?" The result is that we talk only to each other, and not to our community.

In both cases, these questions, while not wrong, aren't right. They subsume the possibility of immediate action in the morass of the unsolvable.

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