Libraries/Community Review (intro)

I’ve been reading as an excuse to put off this next post, the first time I’ll sit down and write something that might, later, turn into something in print. To tell you the truth, I haven’t been reading much (outside of my day job and my regular addition to both Harpers and the New Yorker) since graduate school, so it’s nice to have two or three books around now that I’m trying to get through – makes me remember how much I liked being in school in the first place. This will be a new type of reading/writing experience – should be interesting to see if I like working outside of such a structured environment. But, I digress.

The first book is Andy Barnett’s collection of essays Libraries, Community, and Technology. A few things stick out for me: first, his essay on the “Death of Cataloging” which includes an interesting history of OCLC – excellent background for someone who doesn’t remember (adult) life without WorldCat. Second, his comments throughout about the mission, vision, and core values of libraries. Believe it or not, I’ve now got Michael Gorman’s book on my hold list b/c Barnett refers to it in this work and now I’m curious. Finally, and perhaps somewhat related to my last statement, Barnett has some pretty funny things to say about technology. “Librarians hate the Internet” is one of the highlights. (LOL!!) The other piece I’m (re)reading now is de la Pena McCook’s fantastic little book on community building for librarians A place at the table: participating in community building – I have to say that reading this book while in library school, I’m realizing now, influenced my current work and interests much more than I had realized. Essential reading for anyone interested in an alternate lens (community building – though, is it really an alternate lens?) from which to think about library practice. I look forward to taking the next step (it seems as if it’s the logical next step anyway) and look back over the years since McCook published at the progress we’ve made in terms of linking community building to library practice. Finally, I’ve got Foundations of Library & Information Science on my bed-side table (the light blue LIS101 text many of you may be familiar with) and I’m (re)reading the chapter about the history of libraries in society – Rubin’s using this history as a view into our core mission, principles and values.

I’ve had a hunch, since I started putting some of my “community building” thoughts down in text, that online community building takes us back to some of our roots – an ethic that pervades all of library practice – and that that alone is a good reason to do it. Reviewing (and in the case of Barnett, reading for the first time) these works is giving me some tools to sort that out in a bit more detail. I’m not so sure that new technologies are the path to those “roots” – they may be a tool that help us explore our purpose and practice, but is there anything explicit or inherent in current technologies that take us back to soemthing we’ve forgotten? Or, is new technology important/critical for some other reason? A few more weeks and I may even have something more concrete to say about it. (And, maybe by that time, I’ll also have a desk at home from which to write it. One can only hope…I’m having the most difficult time finding the right one.)

BTW, if anyone has any suggestions on library/community works that have influenced your own practice, let us know. I hope to build a good resource page here – the “must reads” for librarians building community.