After giving a couple of talks on this topic, I was invited to submit an article to the Texas Library Journal, which comes out today. I'm reposting it here. Embedding professional values takes time, and grows from social context Professions are predicated on values. In 1892, the American Library Association (ALA) was guided by this modest motto: "The best books for the most people at the least cost." In 1938, Des Moines Public Library director, Forrest Spaulding, noted that, "Today indications in many parts of the world point to growing intolerance, suppression of free speech and censorship affecting the rights of minorities and individuals." Among those indications was the rise of Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, and Stalin in the Soviet Union. Books under attack in Des Moines eventually included Mein Kampf (anti-Semitic) and Grapes of Wrath (communist). In response, Spaulding pitched a "Library's Bill of Rights" to his board. In 1939,
Ever since my days as a wandering poet, I've believed in the power of story. As I was hitchhiking around the country, I once wandered into a biker bar in Phoenix. Being young, poor, and desperate, I asked the bartender if I could give a 45 minute poetry reading. In exchange, if I could hold the attention of the customers , could I have a pitcher of beer and a pizza? The bartender actually snorted. "You're going to read poetry to this crowd? This I gotta see!" I not only got my beer and pizza (after an hour of performance), I got lots of deeply insightful comments from the audience. I say this not because bikers have the souls of poets (some do!), but because I learned, as I knocked about and gave readings, that dense and deeply allusive verse (academic poetry) left most folks cold. What they wanted were stories . So my poetry tended toward dramatic narratives. The closer I got to an authentic experience, the more it resonated. The same is true of library stories.