Tuesday, November 3, 2009


As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. -- Solomon

I have been trying to come to a clear understanding of how those who run Libraries think. I'm not looking for a common or comprehensive explanation which covers all Libraries or all Librarians. There isn't one. But there should be an explanation, a philosophy of service, for each Library system. If there isn't such a thing the Library may continue to run on sheer inertia, but there will be no direction. Movement, yes. Energy, yes. Good and bad things happening, yes.

I'm not interested in the nebulous, undefined or lazy maxims which populate the literature, and SPL's vision statement.

Our vision statement says SPL is "the best source of knowledge and information" measured by ... what criteria? Saying we're the "best" doesn't mean we are. Have you ever seen the auditions for "So You Think You Can Dance?" There's a lot of "talent" out there that simply can't "cut the mustard" in the world of professional dance. They are good in their own eyes. If we're good in our own eyes then we're lying to ourselves. We have to be good in the eyes of the rest of the Library world. Problem is, I haven't seen any objective criteria which measures the Library in the Library World. We've stopped using those professional resources that help define an adequate collection.

That "enriches" assumes there is a poverty level from which the Library can elevate the community, pulling or dragging, or maybe simply enticing, them (isn't "community" a group of "them"?) to have more information and knowledge. And "empowers" suggests a lack of energy and strength which may be had only from the Library. Unless there are tangible and measurable standards applied to these two words they mean nothing.

We can "empower" consumers to find trustworthy evaluations they need to help them decide which car to buy. We do not make the car buying decision for them. We cannot force them to use the resources available in the Library. We can promote those resources and make sure the people know about them.

We can "enrich" or patrons by giving them a reasonable cross section of historical, philosophical, theological, or self-help psychology books for direction and a plan to succeed. We can't force anyone to actually apply those reasonable tenants of self-improvement to their lives.

We can "empower" our patrons, many also known as students, whether in school or self-determined, to find information, provided of course, we have the information for them to find. We can't have all information, but we can have the "best" information if the Library would simply use the educated professionals they have to "enrich" the collection.

We can "enrich" or patrons, seekers all, by giving them access to information and knowledge they cannot find any where else. Provided, we spend our money wisely and not waste it on stuff which can be readily found in many places around the community.

We can do this by returning to what a Library is, not what certain non-librarian Librarians think its supposed to be.

So what are the criteria for a good Library? The basic, normal criteria? Once we know this we can move into what makes an "excellent" library that is "the best source of knowledge and information." No matter what, there has to be a standard by which we measure our Library. I guess this is where the "Core Competencies" in the new evaluation process are applied. I still haven't figured out how these will help us evaluate our collection.

Gerald F. Ward

No comments:

Post a Comment