I ran across this rather lengthy quote while adding to my chapter on libraries from 1914-1916, and was so pleased by it I couldn’t wait to share it with you! It’s from the 1914 annual report, written by Iowa City Public Library’s librarian, Helen McRaith. Unfortunately my Internet was down yesterday (and most of today), so I had to contain my excitement until now:
“The modern idea of the function of a library is this—to study the literary needs of its own community and then to endeavor to meet these needs to the fullest extent, even if tradition must be violated in so doing.
The old-fashioned library was a cloistral place appealing only to the scholar, who moved silently among dust-covered tomes. The modern library possesses a different atmosphere and one more akin to that of a business office; most of the readers have the appearance of seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.
There is a similar change in the appearance and attitude of the librarians. Formerly they seemed to look on the library as an end in itself and as a collection of interesting curiosities, they were willing to let it remain a stagnant literary pool. Now they must be alert specialists, keen to keep a stream of vital, useful knowledge flowing from the library to all parts of the community.” (Iowa City Public Library 1914 annual report, pg 1).
This reminds me so much of some of the current discussion circulating around the changing field of librarianship, even though it was written almost 100 years ago. Her writing has the same tone of excitement that I feel in my own blog and in reading the posts of other LIS bloggers, about the library as a place of expanding opportunities and of librarians as being people who are redefining the field rather than just participating in it.
There are a couple places in particular where her writing sounds like it could have been lifted out of a modern blog (and then had the language antiquated a bit, of course): there is so much concern right now about justifying the value of libraries, and a lot of that justification comes through pointing out that the library is used for practical purposes, as McRaith says, “…seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.”
>Today was orientation for the new cohort in our department, and it was absolutely a blast. The students are passionate and ready to work, and I felt fortunate to spend the day getting to know some of them. One of the presentations by LISSO (Library and Information Student Organization) included mention of The Library Routes Project. I’m glad I was there to learn about the project and to then go home and look at some of the posts, especially after spending a day with new students and with professionals who were discussing how they came to the field. I had read about it previously on Lauren in Libraryland, and was excited about the project. However, as happens so often, I got bogged down under other tasks and eventually slipped to the back of my mind.
>I am currently feeling a tad overwhelmed. Engaging myself in the search for the perfect PhD program is simultaneously frustrating and rewarding, especially when I have altered my list of schools and my expectations so drastically in the course of my search.
I started out looking both at LIS and History departments, and while I still think there are some exciting and wonderful History programs out there, I feel like I would be restricting myself too much to solely focus on that. I love my history research and plan on continuing it, but I love how LIS embraces new technologies and is open to new ideas. I feel like in History, I would find myself having to justify why I’m so passionate about our open access journal or why I feel like resources and information should be shared, not privileged. Of course every History department isn’t going to be like that, but I have yet to find a discipline that is as broad and interesting as LIS! Everywhere I am applying has faculty members who do research across many disciplines, and I would get a chance to explore new fields and ideas while honing the skills and interests I already have.
>While procrastinating and staring blankly at my Twitter feed a moment ago, I noticed this post by ACRL (ALA’s Association of College and Research Libraries):
@ALA_ACRL: RT @: Open, crowd-sourced peer review works for one humanities journal:http://bit.ly/9HIDJC
As an OA journal editor, I was intrigued. When you click the link above, you’re lead to a Chronicle article about Shakespeare Quarterly‘s new approach to the review process. Basically, a draft of the publication is placed online, and is open for comment by a pool of reviewers with varying specialties. The process is not an anonymous review, so those comments that are made about a submission are attached to the reviewer’s name.
>I am doing research at Cedar Rapids Public Library today, and I always get excited when I notice almost immediately the same trends occurring here that I’ve noticed in other parts of the state. For example, both Cedar Rapids’ and Burlington’s libraries were keen to advertise at the ‘moving picture shows’ starting in 1912. A frame would be shown with an ad for the library on it. Both also publicized themselves in the local newspaper (which seems to have been rather common around the state).