Molly Raphael, presidential candidate for the American Library Association, spoke at the CUA campus on March 17. Her wide variety of experiences and broad perspective of libraries appealed to me. However, what resonated most was her “defending core values.” In praise of this, I offered by support on her Facebook page:
Thank you for taking time to visit Catholic University of America’s School of Library and Information Science. I am excited about your stated priorities and share your drive to maintain open access to information. This is particularly alarming as our society becomes more electronically driven and at the same time the economic downturn is forcing more middle class people to stop their connection service. Libraries have become a sole source of connection for these people, in addition to the low-income segment of our population. Now more than ever the U.S. cannot afford to have lawmakers blindly reduce library budgets, that thereby reduce library hours, which results in closure to information. Lawmakers need to recognize that a democratic society cannot exist without freedom to access information and how essential library services are now, more than ever, in the increasingly digital information dependent society.
If books are the only image that comes to mind when someone says “libraries,” remember this is just one small faucet of today’s institutions. At the foundation of libraries lies intellectual freedom, privacy and open access. The reinforcements of reading and information literacy are equally vital to a fully functioning democracy.
When visits take place within library walls, a collection of exceptional materials based on professional criteria awaits the patron who can select from this prearranged material to meet their needs as they see fit. It now all seems so old fashioned. But just think how much more important this institution should become as society flails in a flood of unfiltered information. Information searches conducted outside the library often eliminate the librarian assistance element. When high quality databases are bypassed, excellent web sources are overlooked, and time is wasted in frustrating attempts to find desired information, some may long for the simpler building and book scenario. But rest assured librarians are still here. So, next time you hear the word library, don’t forget to envision extraordinary databases and websites right beside information that remains to be found only in books.