Saturday, May 23, 2009

Libraries; A Silence That Is Deafening - Part 3

After my original post "Libraries: A Silence That Is Deafening" I heard from a reader, Donald B. Reynolds, Jr. who is the Director of a library in Morristown, Tennessee. Don pointed out to me that Leslie Burger, while President of ALA, had in fact taken on the issue of defining a vision for the future of libraries. He also provided me a link to the work. I read what she had done and was impressed with the effort. But I also noticed that her work seemed to dead-end with the end of her term as President which was in 2006/2007. So, I contacted Leslie and asked if she would do a guestblog on what had happened. The following is her post. I sincerely thank her for doing this.

Libraries; A Silence That Is Deafening - Part 3 by Leslie Burger, Director, Princeton Public Library and Past-President, American Library Association

There have been a number of blog posts recently about the concept of developing a national vision for libraries. I am pleased that this topic has come up once again for discussion within the library community. During my term as ALA president I advanced the idea of developing such a vision – a well-conceived articulation of what we want libraries to provide for the millions of people who use our services each year. In fact, I convened a group of thinkers who came together in ALA Washington’s Office to formulate the vision in December 2006, developed a draft for discussion among ALA’s various divisions, roundtables and interest groups, and authored a final document entitled, “An Agenda for 21st Century Libraries”, that was widely distributed at the ALA 2007 Annual conference in Washington, DC. Then I was no longer ALA president and the library community and association turned its attention to my successor’s initiatives. Unfortunately, with only less than a year to get some traction on this discussion I just ran out of time to keep the ball rolling.

I agree with Carl, that now more than ever, we need a singular vision that excites our users, funders and our colleagues about the uniquely powerful role libraries play in our democracy and how what each of us do every day changes people’s lives. We need a vision to guide ALA’s legislative agenda. We need an agenda to ensure that we capture the attention of government officials and others so we can obtain the funding we need to fundamentally transform libraries and the communities we serve. I tried to do this within ALA but fell short so maybe we need to convene another group, in another venue to advance the cause. Perhaps it’s time for an un-conference, or some other informal gathering either in person or in the blogosphere to have this discussion. Let’s take some inspiration from President Obama and approach this from a grass roots perspective. We don’t need permission, we can do this on our own.