Linda Absher asks, “Where is the true library visionary?” She continues:
“I’m asking this question in all seriousness. After ten-odd (at times very odd) years in the profession, we’re not only fretting over the same problems I read about in library school, we’re now obsessing over the exponential rate at which these problems grow. We worry about our obsolescence; we ponder about The Future of Librarianship, the salvation usually being whatever is trendy or sexy at the moment. And we wonder if anyone besides us notices (much less understand) what we do.
I hope I’m not too harsh, yet I can’t help but feel that we as a profession fall painfully short when it comes to coming up with an idea, a vision–a something that inspires the MLS/MLIS masses to greatness. We’re eloquent when it comes to reacting to threats: the Patriot Act, censorship, disappearing budgets, et al. But when it comes to going beyond defensiveness, we lose it. Other than a constant (and–thanks to increasingly sophisticated search engines and other information gathering technologies–justified) preoccupation with survival, we lack a true vision that makes our minds race or inspires us to go beyond just making through the next fiscal year or technological innovation. In other words, we have no post-millennium Ranganathan.”
I wish I could give a better answer, but I must admit that I don’t know who this person is or what kinds of things we should be worrying about as a profession, if the above are not enough. It’s good to ponder it, though. Particularly in light of Tuesday’s post.
I look up to certain librarians in the blogosphere and in my professional circles; however, I don’t think that any one of them is the kind of visionary voice for the profession like Ranganathan was. In thinking about Ranganathan and his five laws, I begin to wonder if we really need another visionary right now. It seems to me that we are still not following those laws to the best of our abilities, or at least not when “book” is translated to “library resource” or some such thing. We are often stuck on #4 with library policies and cumbersome technology that does not save the time of the reader. I think it is the gadgety solutions to this problem that causes some librarians to geek out over The Next Best Thing, but we also must remember law #2 and that not every library user will want to use The Next Best Thing, so we still must find a solution for them.
Perhaps my response to Linda is not, “I don’t know,” but rather, “We don’t need another grand visionary until we’ve fully implemented the vision of Ranganathan for our times.”