Magazine article American Libraries

Statement by Kenneth E. Dowlin, ALA Candidate for President

Magazine article American Libraries

Statement by Kenneth E. Dowlin, ALA Candidate for President

Article excerpt

The changes that are taking place in our work, homes, communities, and the greater society as we move toward the 21st century are creating a threshold for a decision by librarians. We must make a conscious - perhaps even bold - decision about our future.

What is the future of librarianship? Is it a profession? What roles will we play in our communities and beyond? How will we respond to the massive changes in our society coming from communications technologies, demographic shifts, and the global nature of our economic structures? Will librarians be passive in the face of these forces, or will we provide leadership to our institutions and communities? Who will educate our successors to carry on our values, traditions, history, and commitment to librarianship?


Librarianship and library leaders throughout this country are being confronted by cyberostriches, by community members who have different values and agendas, by local news media acting like tabloids, and our own members who do not believe in the ALA Code of Ethics.

Having created one of the very first 21st-century major public libraries, I am ready to expand my horizons. I have spent over 35 years enhancing libraries in three states. The lives of tens of thousands in communities where I have served are being enriched daily by the libraries I built. Community and business leaders, librarians, and members of other groups around the world have been enlightened by my speeches and writings.

In San Francisco I took a dream from a handful of passionate people, created a vision of what the library could be, communicated that vision to the community, built the New Main Library, and dramatically improved the library as a system - not just a collection of books and buildings. I build vision, I communicate, and I lead.


There needs to be a fundamental change in librarianship. While continuing to preserve the knowledge of the past in all relevant formats, we must prepare for the new roles that are needed by our communities as they struggle with the massive shift from the Information Age to the Communications Age.

Libraries from the 19th century, as embodied by the Carnegie buildings, were focused on books and buildings. During the 20th century, libraries made the change needed by reaching out with bookmobiles, branches, the telephone, the fax, and the other new media. Collections expanded to include knowledge and information in many formats.

As we enter the next millennium, libraries must focus on communication, content preservation, and people spaces (both real and virtual).

I learned the power, the magic, of libraries more than 35 years ago when I started my career driving a bookmobile. …

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