Future of Libraries

“Future of Libraries.” National Library of Korea 77th Anniversary Conference. Seoul, Korea.

Abstract: There is no future for libraries. There are, instead, as many futures as there are libraries. And that means we need to rethink everything from networks to certification to who we call librarians.

Slides:

Speech Script

SLIDE 1

Greetings. I would like to thank the National Library for giving me this opportunity to speak to you today. They have asked me to talk on the topic of the future of libraries. It is perhaps then, somewhat surprising that in my work and in my discussions with librarians around the world, I have come to the conclusion that there is no future for libraries.

SLIDE 2.1

The days of going from town to town or university to university to browse familiar shelves and find some information in a common repository are coming to an end.

Rather than this being a dire prediction of doom, it is in fact a promise for a better tomorrow for librarians and the citizens, students, scholars, and leaders that depend upon them. For you see, there is no one single future for libraries,

SLIDE 2.2

there are as many futures as there are libraries.

SLIDE 2.3

In the near term some libraries will look like open gardens with ambient information on well-being. Some libraries will be makerspaces filled with tools and 3D printers. Some libraries will be more gallery spaces or virtual repositories, or places for gaming. Most will be some combination of all of these things. Indeed, there will be libraries jammed to the rafters with shelves and books. The defining attributes of all libraries will be two-fold: they will reflect the unique makeup of their service communities, and a staff that is constantly connecting great ideas from abroad to the hyperlocal situation.

SLIDE 3

These diverse visions for libraries are not based on the anticipated result of new technological developments or my obsession with science fiction. These futures are already occurring– frankly in spite of some of those anticipated technological developments. This manifold destiny of libraries is the inevitable result of librarianship’s necessary departure from a slavish focus on efficiency begun over a century ago and a growing realization that adoption of an information paradigm led to an untenable false neutrality and technological determinism.

SLIDE 4

These futures-our futures- are the result of the wide spread and growing adoption of a new librarianship. A new librarianship focused on community and true participation to help those we serve find meaning in their lives and for their communities to make smarter decisions. A new librarianship developed not only to seek the aspirations of a community, but forged in a drive to agency and activism in the face of societal threats like the growth of authoritarianism, climate crisis, a misinformation epidemic, and global inequities.

SLIDE 5

This new connected and participatory librarianship forces us to rethink everything we do in this profession, and even how we define our profession. We can no longer educate future librarians with a static curriculum passing on increasingly dated concepts like a divide between what is public service and technical service. We must seek out new ways of certifying librarians that increase the sense of legitimacy in our most rural settings. We must leave behind concepts of best practice and toolkits for methods of innovation generation and adaptation, not adoption. In this world of multiple futures we must re-task our library networks and consortia away from developing standards, and into platforms whose primary function is supporting distributed peer learning and mentoring networks – virtual makerspaces for the profession itself to forge better institutions.

Before I go unpacking this rather dense set of ideas, let me address the seeming paradox of talking globally about multiple futures defined by the unique and local. It is true, I believe, that we are entering an era of unique libraries where one town’s library doesn’t look or do the same thing as a neighboring one. Where one university doesn’t match up to another. However, I do believe that there is one common thread that will ensure success and a bright diverse future. You. Librarians.

We must see librarians-whether by education, title, or spirit-as intellectually honest and trusted knowledge professionals that have an obligation to stitch our fractured communities together. Librarians that actively fight censorship and book banning not based on an outdated notion of being unbiased, but instead on professionalism and a deep studied grounding in the knowledge infrastructure, and in a broad drive to equity, diversity, and inclusion. You are the common key that will weave the coming futures into a rich tapestry that is our profession.

SLIDE 6

You, not your collections, or buildings, or metadata, will ensure the wellbeing of our communities – our towns, our countries, our schools, our colleges – by bridging to great ideas and great people and bringing them together.

And how will you be doing that? Let’s start with the first on my list of possible futures: the garden.

SLIDE 7

Outside the ancient walls of Perugia is the City Library San Matteo degli Armeni. A public library housed in ancient ruins. It consists of a modest interior space surrounded by gardens. The interior is for performances and research with a collection on peace; nonviolence; human rights; intercultural and interfaith dialogue; and ethical-fair trade. The true glory of this public library, however, is the gardens.

All around the central building is a of 5,000 square meter garden in the ruins of 17th century structures, fountains, and statues. The garden has community plots for locals to grow vegetables. Towns people can host weddings by the cedar grove – a grove of trees planted as part of a United Nations project of remembrance of those who fought for human rights.

Wireless internet connections allow local university students use the outdoor space to study and relax. Community volunteers maintain vegetable and flower plots. The Russian Orthodox church maintains the old church on the grounds.

This is a library. A library funded by and for the public of Perugia. It is not a library because there are books there. It is not a library because the government funds it as such. It is a library because of librarian Gabriele De Veris and his work to help the citizens of Perugia aspire to have their community be a more ethical, fair, and just city.

SLIDE 8

De Veris is not alone in seeing the power of the outdoors in meeting the aspirations of a community. Dr. Noah Lenstra at the University of North Carolina Greensboro collects stories of libraries embracing the outdoors to enhance the health and wellbeing of the population. He points to Selwyn New Zealand:

“Te Ara ?tea is alive with spaces to explore and play – both inside and out.

Fancy learning about how to grow vegetables or pruning trees in an outdoor setting? How about just finding a quiet nook to read your favourite book? The sensory garden will be where you catch up with family and friends, meet new people or just relax.

A sensory space and garden engages all the senses – sight, touch, sound, smell and taste. It features pergolas, raised gardens with edible plants, outdoor instruments, water and colour features.

Hundreds of enthusiastic and creative souls from nine schools throughout the district, have devoted their time to brainstorm, sketch, design and paint beautiful feature poles and decorative mosaic tiles for the sensory space.

The brightly decorated poles signify each school’s unique character and our district’s landscape, flora, birdlife and environment.”[1]

SLIDE 9

From Guelph, Canada to Austin, Texas, librarians are creating seed libraries. In Central New York in the US they went one step further. They loaned-out plots of lands for residents to grow gardens. The local girl scout troop built a bee habitat to pollinate the plants, and in the Fall, extra food is sold in a library-run farmers’ market or donated to local food pantries.

What makes these library operations is not that the seeds had MARC records, or that the gardens were classified by the Dewey Decimal system, but that they built knowledge and meaning into the lives of their members. Be it in books or seeds, or bees, learning occurred and the community got better because of the work of librarians and library staff.

We would never question book lending to learn, or author speakers, or funding databases. All of these are examples of library services to educate and spark conversation. But what if that conversation is about how to be healthy? Instead of a medical database, or a wellness books the City of Philadelphia, for example, built an industrial teaching kitchen in the center of their downtown main library.

SLIDE 10

The downtown area is what is referred to as a food desert. Folks living in the inner city had little access to healthy food. Instead of grocery stores, they had convenience stores. Instead of vegetables, they had access to cheap junk food. And here’s where the kitchen comes in.

Other city services and private foundations were providing healthy food to the inner city, but a carrot or a tomato doesn’t go far unless you know how to cook and prepare them. So, the library offered cooking classes. Later, working with the community, the librarians went further.

Philadelphia’s center is like many city centers across the globe. It is filled with immigrants, and diverse cultures. Knowing how central food is to so many cultures, and how food can be a bridge between people of different backgrounds, the staff of the library used the kitchen for immigrants and people of different backgrounds to cook and share their native and family recipes. The citizens of Philadelphia went to the library to break bread together – to talk, and eat, and learn about what each can add to a city.

Around the world librarians are throwing open the windows of the library to embrace the world and people around them. Rooftop greenspaces, peaceful courtyards, connecting to hiking trails and museums nearby, today’s libraries grow minds and community.

SLIDE 11

Within a three-hour drive in South Carolina, you can see the handmade United States flag sewn by freed slaves presented to union troops now preserved by the Spartanburg Public Library; join a Richland Public Library StoryWalk “to walk along [one’s] favorite trails while reading a story, step-by-step and page-by-page;” and finally grab free fresh produce from the rural branches of the Charleston County Public Library. In that three hour drive you are encountering great libraries that serve their communities…but not in the same way. 

I know there will be those of you who hear these examples and question how such services meet the needs of scholars, or lawyers, or legislators, or the vast variety of the communities that our different libraries serve. Do we build a garden for the physics professor at our university? Do we provide fresh fruit to the historian deeply immersed in our archives? Probably not…but that’s just my point. We have always known that different communities need different library services.

And before we go much further, let me clarify some of my terminology.

SLIDE 12

When I use the term community, I don’t mean just the citizens of a given location. A university is a community of scholars and students and staff. A primary school is a community of children and teachers. A law firm is a community of lawyers and paralegals, and clients. A community is a group of people associated based on some known variable (like where they live, work, or study) and a mechanism to allocate scarce resources like land, or money, or authority. The South Korean community is defined by a place, but also by a people who have built a government and an economy. I am part of the University of Texas at Austin community that is defined by membership in the university and a system that governs the use of space and tuition and time.

SLIDE 13

I also want to be clear when I talk about library services. Everything librarians and other library staff use to aid their service population to find meaning and get smarter, is a service. A collection is a service. It is not simply a pile of books or documents. It has been organized, shelved, protected, circulated…it is a service because people manipulated it in hopes of making it useful. Likewise, the building is a service. When it is open, how many seats are available, how loud it is, all designed and therefore a service.

SLIDE 14

It is with this context some may better understand my no doubt most famous quote: bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities. It is not bad for a library to have a collection. It is bad if we in the profession view and maintain that collection without thought to how it will be used by people. Good libraries understand the need to see everything they do as a service because it is evaluated against use. But both of these approaches – collection driven, or service driven – will never reach their full potential unless they understand that all a librarian does is only a part of a community’s wellbeing.  

The library garden is not a collection of plants. A library garden is not a nice service for those who care about plants. A library garden should be a way to enhance the community – to make it healthier and happier, and better. That library garden will not succeed on that latter test unless it is tied into how the whole community sees health, how other institutions and individuals are seeking to improve the community, and if that garden is part of a movement where librarian stands side by side with student and scholar and entrepreneur, and parent, and legislator seeking a better smarter community.

If a garden doesn’t do that, then your library shouldn’t have a garden. If an archive of ancient manuscripts does that, then you build an archive, or a maker space, or a place like Storyhouse in the UK:

SLIDE 15

“Storyhouse is one of the UK’s foremost cultural charities, its home in Chester incorporates a library, theatres and a cinema.

It is one of the country’s most successful arts buildings, with more than one million customer visits each year. The pioneering new library within Storyhouse, where members of the community work alongside city librarians, boasts the longest opening hours of any UK public library and is open every day until 11pm. It runs over 2,000 sessions a year for marginalised communities[2].”

Or perhaps at one time, you wanted to support business in your country so you build a grand collection of databases, newspapers, and books about business in your national library. However, as the culture and times shifted, you realized you needed something more proactive, and something that didn’t just support existing enterprise. You wanted to a place that spurred entrepreneurship. A place like the Business & IP Centre at the British Library.

Here anyone with a business idea can not only get access to print and digital resources, they can get access to a community of support. One-time reference librarians received training in business development. The space regularly hosts networking events, and speakers’ series. It runs a mentoring network connecting successful entrepreneurs with people new to business. It even provides incubator space for new startups.

The idea that libraries don’t all look alike is nothing new. The idea that shaping a library more and more around the people, needs, and aspirations of a community has now come to the point where grouping libraries by types of institutions – public, academic, school, national, special- makes no sense. We have come to a tipping point.

Take academic libraries.

SLIDE 16

Some see their future based on special collections. They are actively investing in things that are unique and are seeking the papers of the prestigious, or rare manuscripts, or materials of a given era or event. The University of South Carolina has amazing archives of film, politicians, and comic books. The library of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, on the other hand, used COVID to eliminate all physical collections save a small archival collection of rare medical books. The library did not shrink its footprint, or close. Instead, it digitized materials, and provided students with safe spaces to study.

One transformational change it made to meet the needs of their community was changing shelving space into video conferencing facilities for students to apply for internships and residencies. Pre-COVID medical students looking for placement in hospitals would have to travel to interview. The average student would apply to only a handful of places limited by the money they had for flights and hotels, not their skills, or the opportunities available. Now, with video conferencing services provided by the library, these students are applying and interviewing to 10 and 20 places, creating a more equitable and diverse population of future doctors.

Some might ask, why is this a library? A university’s IT services could set up that room. It is true. And if all that was provided was a room with a fancy camera set up it would be a fair criticism. However, the librarians did far more than schedule a room. Aside from helping their studies learn and thrive academically throughout their studies, the librarians help students prepare for the interviews, do background research, connect to alumni to provide insight. That empty library was filled with library staff connecting and working with student and faculty alike to improve medicine. That is what makes a library.

And this brings us back to the tipping point. As the San Antonio school progresses, toward their ideal future, they may have more in common with urban libraries seeking to help the houseless find jobs. Public libraries that also provide video spaces and background research, and in some place, clean sports coats and ties.

Secondary school libraries building oral histories of their communities may want to learn from the LocHAL public library in Tilburg.

SLIDE 17

Tilburg was building their new library in a train maintenance warehouse long abandoned as the whole train industry shifted out of the country. During planning for the new library, librarians invited the townsfolks to visits the warehouse and use it before construction. They placed large touchscreens around the space that showed historical pictures and facts about the warehouse during its heyday. But the screens didn’t just present information. They allowed former workers and mechanics to use these screens to tell their own stories. To show not only where they worked, but what they did, and how what that meant to them.

When the LocHAL was finally built, it was not just for the community, it was of the community. It represented a vision of the future, while honoring, and documenting its past.

In today’s libraries across the globe, we already see local needs reshaping long held library operations and staffing. In urban library settings around the world libraries are hiring social workers, designing programs for the houseless, providing internet connectivity, and some are even training in preventing death by drug overdose.

Our great academic libraries are hiring data scientists, and while preserving the scholarly literature of the past are staunch advocates for open access research and open educational resources.

SLIDE 18

Our great cultural heritage hubs, are bringing together makers and youth specialists in addition to historians and preservationists understanding that the cultural heritage of a people is not simply in what is inherited from the past, but in how a people are making tomorrow.

Librarianship has simply become more complex because our society has become more complex. But more importantly, because we now see the lives of people as unique, diverse, and valuable.

SLIDE 19

We must fully discard the old universalists ideals of library figures, such as Melvil Dewey, fixated on industrial production and efficiency over all. We must fully discard the old documentalist ideals that the richness of a society, a community, or a person, can be adequately captured in the written word. And that the written word must be understood in a single meaning assigned by an author.

Some will hear these words – discarding ideas-and take that to mean I believe that our four millennia history is to be discarded, or worse still, does not have value. That is not my meaning. Or to be more precise, the reason libraries have endured over four thousand years is because we regularly examined ourselves, our world, tested everything, and kept only that which worked, and, just as importantly, innovated around what did not.

SLIDE 20

Think of farmers. And may I apologize I seem to have created a thread around plants. Farming is a discipline that goes back ten thousand years. It is a durable and essential profession. Yet, today’s farmers, while they can draw a line back through the centuries, and indeed still use some ideas that are thousands of years old, are not limited to furrows in the ground with Ox and plow. Combines, synthesized nitrate fertilizers, computer-controlled GPS-driven irrigation systems have allowed a noble profession to evolve and meet the needs of an ever-growing population.

We are the farmers of knowledge. We too have evolved in how we gather, maintain, and disseminate the thoughts of humanity, but we are still driven to create a more meaningful existence for those we serve, and smarter communities to be a part of.

SLIDE 21

Look back in history, and you will find libraries as agents of change, not simply repositories. You will see the ancient library of Alexandria not as a building full of scrolls – those were kept in the building dedicated to the muses- the musea, the origin of the term museum- no you will see a think tank where the sharpest minds of the known world were gathered to work together and advise kings and queens. You will see the libraries of the Islamic world in the middle ages that swelled with the advent of paper production to stimulate the fields of poetry, physics, and mathematics. We see here in Korea how libraries were part of a growing literacy building on printing advances in the 13th Century and the formalization of the Korean writing systems in the 15th Century.

SLIDE 22

And so, we come back to today. An inflexion point once again in librarianship. A librarianship that must support the local with, and often against, global pressures. A growing international literacy with a growing wealth inequality. Greater access to information with a growing authoritarianism. A growing voice through digital media with a growing pandemic of misinformation. A growing scientific understanding of the universe, with the clear climate crisis that scientific advancement has both unveiled and accelerated.

Libraries are the key to facing these global challenges. Once again, let me be clear. Libraries are key not in the general sense that we are all responsible, or all parts of society must do their part to ensure democracy and inclusion. No, libraries as a sector, are vital players in not serving our communities, but saving them.

What we see again and again when democracies falls is repressive governments that seek to stifle criticism, limit the free expression of ideas, and instill a single narrative of a state.

SLIDE 23

Right now, in my home state of Texas, moves are afoot to limit exceptions in obscenity laws so that librarians can be dismissed, sued, and possibly worse, for buying, shelving, or distributing objectionable materials- when there is always someone to object. To this list of objectionable materials has already been added critical race theory, that is often misrepresented as any critical stance on history or society that makes the white majority uncomfortable. Also under attack are materials that give voice to the gay, or the trans, or the oppressed minority. 

These fights are not happening in courts and legislative buildings, they are happening in school and public libraries now. And what’s next? Well, as they say, there is no place more full of lies, deceit, and objectionable material than a good academic library. In Texas the discussion is about either eliminating academic freedom protections for faculty, including academic librarians, or simply listing a series of topics that a professor can be fired for teaching.

SLIDE 24

Librarians are not documenting these disputes, nor informing them, they are fighting them -now.

What is happening in Texas has already happened in other countries such as Turkey and China. Too many safe bastions of democracy have begun to adopt a narrative that democracy is so precious it must be curbed to survive.

What we capture here in the National Library must never become a time capsule of history, but the fuel for the engine of progress. What we do in our buildings and gardens, and maker spaces, and yes, in our collections, today, right now, is the global front in a battle for free expression, open education, and a promise for a better tomorrow.

SLIDE 25

But we will not win this fight like we did in the past. It is no longer about large institutions that are seen as neutral and credible because of the size of their columns, or the amount of marble used. No, today, we win the war for the freedom of our very knowledge infrastructure by building trust person by person, and community by community. And that trust is built not by looking official and detached, but by looking like our neighbors. We fight this battle for open ideas not as a single monolithic collection, but as millions of dedicated professionals making connections.

This means that the role of librarian is VERY different. The role of library networks is VERY different. The way we educate future librarians is VERY different.

SLIDE 26

The role of the librarian is no longer caretaker of a collection, but of a community. We work to ensure that our libraries are safe spaces to explore dangerous ideas…a goal we have stated in the past, but have far to go to achieve. We must create a more open society through interpersonal connections and strong partnerships with other like-minded institutions. Be those museums, or philanthropy, or civil service. Be those teachers or principals. Be those a faculty senate or a provost. Be those Google or Kia, librarians – you and me – must build a movement in our community that values intellectual honesty. That values transparency. And above all that values true participation.

Our libraries cannot be services adjoined to the side of our universities or cities. We must also discard the old metaphor that the library is the heart of the community, or the university, or, dare I say, the country. Instead, we must be the blood of the body, coursing through the arteries and veins of the community delivering oxygen and ensuring the health of the whole. Librarians will be delivering oxygen and vitality to our communities in the form of literacy, access, but above all, hope.

I know “hope” sounds nebulous and a throwaway catch all term. But I mean it in a VERY real way. The examples before about gardens and kitchens aren’t just things we deliver, they are symbols that a community matters, and it deserves good food, fresh air, and a place to engage.

Several years ago, the Chittenango Public Library decided to create a literacy program in a local food pantry for those unable to afford food. Chittenango was a rich town, but in the poorest county in the whole State of New York. When families would come for food, the library provided reading help, tutoring, and literacy enrichment to the kids.

At the end of these programs, each participating child received a book. Let’s face it, the most stereotypical thing a library can give as a gift. Yet, as the library director, Betsy Kennedy, was handing out the books, a girl of no more than 8 began to cry. When Betsy asked the girl what was wrong, the girl said that this book was the first new thing she had ever owned.

To that girl, the book was not about reading, or stories. It was about being shown that she was worthy. That no matter how much money her family didn’t have, she still mattered. And how you do that will vary from setting to setting,

SLIDE 27

So to the core skills of librarianship: information access, and information organization, we add facilitation. The ability not only to do collection development, but connection development. And the skills to run your unique library may be expressed in very different ways. But what holds us together as a profession is not some mythical architype of what a library is or does, but librarians constantly checking in with their peers, gathering good ideas to adapt to their local setting, sharing what works with other to adapt, and provide mentoring, support and learning to the rest of the profession.

SLIDE 28

This means our library networks much change. Rather than a consortium, association, or network being about developing and implementing standards across all members, these networks are professional makerspaces for librarians to come together and learn and share. In the near term we still need shared platforms for union catalogs, document delivery, and consortial buying. But as we continue to shape ourselves around the unique brilliance of our communities, networks can no longer assume every library needs every service, or that all services will be used in the same way.

Looking again to my new home of Texas you need to know that 80% of the 28.64 million residents get their library service from 20% of the public libraries in the state. Those 20% represent large urban and suburban libraries. The other 5.6 million Texans either have no public library, or get their library service from small, and tiny rural public libraries. Libraries that serve places like Smithville population 4,500, or Flat, Texas population 598. Or like Pottsboro Public Library, services population 2,500.

You might think a library network, or a state library, would be able to serve all of these small independent towns with the same resources- book buying, shared catalogs, shared card services. But if you were to look at Pottsboro, you would be shocked if you have an image of a rural library.

SLIDE 29

Pottsboro has a tiny book collection located in a corner of an old post office. The rest of the space is used for 3D printing, virtual reality experiments, robotics clubs, and an e-sports team partnered with a local college. Out back you’ll find a huge shed with tools and all sorts of things that citizens can borrow. And in the parking lot a generator hooked up to a radio tower that rises some 40 feet into the air. That tower provides free wireless internet connection to anyone in a 2-mile radius using whitespace spectrum.

I have been to a lot of libraries in my career. Pottsboro tops my list of innovative and community-centered libraries. Period.

The library networks need to tap into Pottsboro Director Dianne Connery’s innovation and share it through teaching and mentoring and observing to other librarians in Texas, and indeed the world.

Which brings me to a word I have used loosely throughout my remarks: librarian. How do we prepare the librarian of tomorrow to make this vision possible? How can we ensure the investment of the past and present librarianship is continued in the next generation?

SLIDE 30

A librarian of today and tomorrow is three things: a mission, a set of methods that will evolve over time, and a set of values built from our history to ensure the well-being of those that we serve. The mission of a librarian is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in his or her community. Or put more plainly: we make the world a better place by helping people find meaning and make better decisions.

We are hardly the only ones with this mission. Teachers, publishers, even YouTube might claim it as their own. So, it must be matched with how we carry the mission out.

We provide access to knowledge and information. Information in the form of documents, databases, and the like. Access to knowledge in the form of experts and neighbors and peers.

However, we must go beyond access to existing knowledge; we must foster new knowledge. Information literacy and reading, but also making, growing, and, perhaps most importantly, advocacy. The ability for a person or a group to take agency and seek change. If all we do is teach people to read, and the state has limited what reading is available, then we have failed. If we build beautiful buildings full of makerspaces, collections, gardens, lectures, and storytelling, but do not prepare our communities to question and quest for justice, then we have built amusement parks for the mind meant to distract and pacify, not educate.

Instead of homes for propaganda, we build environments that support inquiry. A platform that intelligently deals with privacy. A place that welcomes. A place that challenges. A place – virtual, real, or most likely both – that ultimately inspires a member of the community to learn.

Librarians also build on the motivation of people. We unlock intrinsic motivation that drives people to learn and shares for personal satisfaction, and if we are lucky, joy. We also know how to work with those extrinsically motivated. We support the student in their assignment, the business person in their work, and the scholar in their advancement.

But once again, there are others who would say that access, knowledge, environment, and motivation are also their tool set. It is only when we link the mission and the means to the values that guide our actions that can uniquely identify a librarian. Values that prize learning, openness, intellectual freedom & safety, intellectual honesty, and diversity. Together mission, means, and values define a librarian. Not the building in which they work.

SLIDE 31

And for our future, we must acknowledge and validate that there are different ways to become a librarian. By education – formal programs in higher education remain an effective way of preparing people to be librarians. It is also the way that I make my living, so I have a bias here. It gives the learner a concentrated environment to learn and try and invent in the relative safety of the classroom.

However, we must acknowledge other ways into our ranks. In almost every country in the world librarians achieve their status by a job title. Across the globe there are librarians with no formal preparation in the field. Indeed, there are many librarians without much formal education at all. Rather than demean these folks, or bemoan their lack of preparation, we must reach out and bring them into the ranks.

We must use our peer learning networks to ensure they gain skills, but also the passion for mission and values. If we feel the best way to do this is to require formal degrees, then we must make access to higher education affordable and accessible. We must create new means of certifying the rural librarian, or the librarian in a country with no formal programs in library science. In doing so our goal is to foster great librarians by giving them the vital sense of legitimacy that they need to speak out against censorship, and division, and to confront the few loud voices for ignorance by mobilizing the broader community for progress and inclusion.

We must also acknowledge the librarians by spirit. Those individuals who share our values and dedication to the greater good. If they are in government or industry or philanthropy, we must create a welcoming environment to support them and build their identity as librarians. These will be our greatest benefactors.

It is ultimately up to these librarians, by degree, by title, and by spirit, that will extend our good work, and invent whole new means of service.

SLIDE 32

And so, we come back to the future or rather futures of libraries. And those futures can be magnificent. It will be filled with librarians and the libraries they create and manage first reconnecting those within their communities by fighting against the loud in words, but small in numbers who would limit access to ideas, redraft history to their liking, and punish those of us who know that questions and critique make institutions and nations stronger by making them more inclusive and just.

And then what a librarian does in their community – their town or university or school or office or agency -will become a movement. A movement that pushes society away from authoritarianism and xenophobic nationalism. A movement that protects libraries as temples of learning. A movement that joins with its neighbors, and their neighbors, until we see an international force that does not come together to write standards documents and make declaration, but a movement of librarians and politicians and executives and housewives and students and scholars to insist on the free expression of ideas, the human right to accurate information, and dedicated to a knowledge infrastructure that allows us all to do well, but more importantly, to do good.

SLIDE 33

–END–


[1] https://www.selwynlibraries.co.nz/your-libraries/te-ara-atea/outdoor-sensory-space2

[2] https://www.storyhouse.com/about

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