Magazine article Information Today

Why Libraries?

Magazine article Information Today

Why Libraries?

Article excerpt

Professional library literature usually focuses on reporting and interpreting data, not on philosophizing about society and librarians' place in it. Not so in Our Enduring Values Revisited: Librarianship in an EverChanging World. Author Michael Gorman doesn't hesitate to take on big issues and how they relate to libraries, as he has done for many years. In this new volume, he revises his book Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century, which was published in 2000. Many of the same themes are present in this work, with new chapters at the end and more than 70 additional pages. It remains a highly charged and acerbic commentary on librarianship, updated to reflect current trends and events.

Gorman hardly needs an introduction. He has worked for decades in British and U.S. libraries and served as the first editor of Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, Second Edition. He was president of the American Library Association (ALA) from 2005 to 2006 and also .served on its council for several years. Gorman is known as a commentator on the profession who is not afraid to share his sometimes controversial views. He has presented widely in the field and has written several other books, including the memoir Broken Pieces: A Library Life, 1941-1978.

In Our Enduring Values Revisited, Gorman reconsiders the ideas at the heart of our profession. Regarding the demise of libraries that has been broadly predicted since the end of the 20th century, he writes, "The ideas that the digital revolution has made libraries irrelevant, that libraries can no longer be afforded, or that libraries are no longer needed seem, at best, based on ignorance and the willful avoidance of realities and, at worst, the malign triumph of ignorance, materialism, and philistinism." He focuses on helping librarians understand our value, see where we can work on issues, and make a clear case for our utility and necessity. He begins by discussing values, both general and library-specific.

Not Just Another Building

One suggestion is that libraries should work with cultural institutions such as museums and learned societies on a shared mission to preserve and expand knowledge and learning. Moving on to our history and philosophy, Gorman reminds us of the ideas of seminal library thinkers such as S.R. Ranganathan and Lee Finks. Gorman's own reading and study led him to develop an inventory of librarianship's central values: stewardship, rationalism, service, intellectual freedom, literacy and learning, equity of access to recorded knowledge and information, privacy, democracy, and the greater good. Each of these is explored in a full chapter. …

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