Pirates and Librarians: Big Media, Technology, and the Role of Liberal Education

By Donabedian, D. Aram; Carey, John | Library Philosophy and Practice, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Pirates and Librarians: Big Media, Technology, and the Role of Liberal Education


Donabedian, D. Aram, Carey, John, Library Philosophy and Practice


Because the new processes of domination to which people react are embedded in information flows, the building of autonomy has to rely on reverse information flows.

--Manuel Castells, The Power of Identity

Introduction

In recent decades, advances in information technology have vastly increased the channels by which librarians and educators can connect patrons or students with relevant resources. Certainly, it is difficult for librarians today--whether in reference or technical services--to imagine doing their jobs without access to online databases, internet resources, cataloging or circulation software, and the many other tools we now take for granted. Similarly, it is difficult to imagine contemporary patrons voluntarily relinquishing the ability to search OPACs, export bibliographic citations, retrieve full-text articles from thousands of journals, or contact a librarian at all hours via e-mail, chat, or text messaging. These new information-seeking habits of patrons drive libraries--and librarians--to keep up with new applications of technology, whether by using blogs and social networking sites to help promote the services we offer or by ensuring remote access to library resources on mobile devices.

Given this centrality of technology to the evolving practice of contemporary librarianship--especially academic librarianship--it is difficult to remember that not all librarians welcomed the appearance of computers in libraries during the transformative era of the 1990s. Yet if we agree with Ranganathan's most basic principles that "books are for use" and that librarians should "save the time of the reader," why would any librarian object to new tools that help connect more users with more resources, more quickly than ever (Ranganathan, 1963)? Some, perhaps, felt threatened by the new skill sets required or the uncertainty of a transitional period. However, this paper will argue that the deeper answer points to a fundamental question of how librarians view our profession, its mission, and its role in fostering the values essential to liberal education and democracy. The technology that has enabled libraries to expand their roles has also led them to depend increasingly upon powerful commercial publishers, even as governments surrender more and more oversight to these corporate interests. Increasing consolidation of major media channels--including sources of scholarly communication--has allowed a shrinking number of corporations to control distribution and access to the materials libraries offer, through licensing fees, copyright restrictions, and digital rights management. If left unchecked, this trend threatens to stifle access to the information students need to construct knowledge, thereby undermining information literacy, critical pedagogy, and the development of those critical thinking skills so crucial to the mission of liberal education.

I. Critical Pedagogy and the Threat to Liberal Education

In order to understand how libraries arrived at this crossroads, it is instructive to assess the traditionally agreed upon values of libraries and liberal education, and to examine why some librarians felt those values to be under attack when technology took a larger role in libraries. Within the larger world of higher education, advocates for liberal education in the humanities argue that the critical thinking skills engendered in these fields can fortify an open society against domination by corporate or political elites. In her recently released book Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, the philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues that "[a]s the critical thinking taught by the humanities is replaced by the unexamined life of the job-seekers, our ability to argue rights and wrongs is silenced. In a society of unreflective, undiscerning yes-men and yes-women, politics becomes meaner and business can invite disasters such as the economic meltdown or the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico" (Allemang, 2010, p.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pirates and Librarians: Big Media, Technology, and the Role of Liberal Education
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.