Several discussions have been dominating my Friendfeed best-of-day threads lately all revolving around the future of libraries.
Peter Murray Rust kicked off discussion asking for contribution and feedback for his (then) coming presentation on Libraries of the Future.
I was a bit despondent at the request. If a scientist who would be typical of my normal client did not know what we did or what we were for and had to ask, what sort of job had we been doing? Was this a marketing failure or a service failure or were libraries and librarians really doomed? Dorothea Salo and Christina Pikas and others rose to the challenge.
In contrast late last night (my time) John Blyberg posted the “The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians” authored by himself, Kathryn Greenhill and Cindi Trainor.
Kathryn told me that something was coming and I had seen the pictures of the whiteboard wiki so when the cat woke me a 3am this morning I went to check.
There have been some comments on the post itself but compared to the reaction to the other two the reaction has been positive, uncritical and low volume.
Don’t get me wrong. My reaction is positive. I am just a bit disappointed by the lack of discussion. Steve Lawson and Dorothea and a few others have pointed to the post. Unfortunately Friendfeed and Twitter trends work on the volume of the discussion not the positiveness of the reaction. Maybe its only the controversial posts that will get the attention and this one is just too in agreement with what we think. Or maybe (she says hopefully) it is just too soon.
I then started thinking about how the statements worked as a mission statement for myself and my colleagues.
And it does. Can I work with the statements? Oh yes. Will I be pointing my work colleagues to them? Most assuredly.
But unfortunately I can think of librarians for whom that would not be true.
It all arises from the first sentence. The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization. This would be true of any civic institution. Substitute school or police or court in there and it’s still true. The rest logically arises from that one sentence. The differentials between libraries and other civic institutions are covered by the role statements. The purpose statement thus applies to public libraries, academic libraries and state libraries and (thank goodness) my library as the institution we serve is in itself covered by the purpose statement.
My one nit pick is what about the libraries that are not part of civic institutions? What about those librarians who are employed to serve the information needs of a corporation or company? The prime purpose of the company is make money for its owners. Statements about triple bottom lines and civic responsibilities don’t take away from that fact. The purpose of the library and librarian employed by a corporation cannot be encompassed by the purpose statement from Darien. As a consequence they cannot be governed by the statement “Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict.” Do we expect those libraries and librarians to also serve the higher purpose of the rest of the profession? Or do we call these something else besides libraries and librarians? This has been discussed ad nauseum over the years in regards to the whole profession.
As I said this is a nitpick and I am sure that most corporate librarians would only be too pleased to take on board the rest of the statements and support their professional civically employed colleagues in any way to uphold these ideals as to purpose. But I don’t know whether they could justify incorporating this purpose statement into their day to day work lives.