Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Living Library* (1 of 2)

*A lecture delivered during the conference on books, libraries and reading promotion by the PNU University Library and the National Book Development Board last April 21, 2007, Friday.

Let me begin by quoting the famed library guru, Dr. Ranganathan.

“The library is a growing organism.”

He said these immortal words decades ago, but it remains to be one powerful, if not, popular mantra in the field of library and information science. I do not know about you, but to me, it encapsulates the very essence of our crucial role in fostering a reading culture and in building a nation of readers. Whether we are librarians from the academe or from the school; the public library or the special library, we have a responsibility to firm up the cornerstone of knowledge and the creation and communication of information. It is our primary duty to make our clients READ. Therefore, it is our job to make our libraries attractive and interesting to clients so that they can read the many resources we offer them.

By reading, I mean a lot of things. Reading is the utility of references, print and online; it is the searching done in a database, OPAC or the manual catalog; it is the excitement of a grade school student when he borrows his first book; it is the delight of a preschooler upon hearing stories read aloud during storytime; it is the discovery of new facts and information by a high school student; it is the expansion of world views and perspectives one encounters with literature; the reconstruction and accommodation of new knowledge by a college student in research; it is the critical analysis of messages brought by print, broadcast and technological media; it is the application and the integration of concepts, skills, values and technology of the varied resources that empower a professional.

Reading is synonymous to learning. It takes place not only in the four walls of the classroom or in the corporate conference hall but in the library as well. Reading is connecting with one’s self and reaching out to the world. The library can afford that to a person.

It is our contribution to the community and the society at large to nurture and nourish our clients by providing a library that lives. Dr. Ranganathan may have spoken of the library as an entity that is alive, but without the professional expertise of a librarian, do you think the library would ever grow? Do you think reading, and its many facets and definitions to different kinds of learners would ever occur? It will only remain a building with books, shelves and technological watchamacallits. The challenge now lies at how we can breathe life to our library programs and services so that we can bridge the gap between the collection and resources we manage to the people that we serve. We have to start with a recollection of who we are as professionals in the community where we belong and partake. We need to look at how we do our work in the library in the light of new demands and trends brought by changing environments and client culture. And then, we act. Roll up those sleeves and let’s get down to business.

Image & Identity : Who are we? What is our role? How do we portray our role?
It is already the age of information technology. It is an exciting and challenging time to be a librarian today. With the advent of technology, we can use them to spear head projects in our library; empower our services; enhance our programs to attain goals and impact the lives of those we serve. However, while our training in library school prepared us for the real world, we suffer an image problem. We are still perceived as docile and boring, strict or timid. This can only happen, when we accept that perception as our professional identity.

Of course, most of us have disagreed to this stereotype. We have continuously asserted the relevant role we play locally and globally. The efforts of the BFL to resuscitate the continuing professional education guidelines for librarians and the PLAI’s move to reorganization are indicators that we are adapting and changing with the times.

On the micro level, how do you fare? In your own community, how are you perceived? What is your perception of yourself? Tough questions? Let’s go to the different school’s of thought in library and information science.

The first school of thought dwells on the belief that the library is an information center where users and clients can access different learning resources. The librarian does the selection, acquisition, organization and circulation of these resources to clients. The librarian provides reports and feedback relevant issues and concerns pertaining to library work to the administration.

The second school of thought adheres to the philosophy that the library exists to help its mother organization achieve and accomplish its vision, mission and goals. The librarian collaborates with teachers and administrative staff for the development of the library’s collection. The librarian engages himself in the behavior of his clients to determine their information needs. The librarian gathers evidence from the practice of the profession and makes use of this evidence to further improve services and programs.

Which of these schools of thought do you subscribe to?

There really is no right or wrong school of thought. In fact, you can even combine the best of either schools of thought according to given situations or parameters set by your environment. But, whichever school of thought you chose determines your professional image and identity. It has a bearing on how we do service and run programs. It has an effect on how alive we want our library to be.

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