"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Dec 9, 2009

My life right now

  • End of the semester. I just have a little more to go... some assignments are not so fun, some are more interesting. Nothing unusual. My big paper (the needs of prisoners, in the context of what prison libraries can provide) is done, turned in, and presented upon. My big group presentation (the representation of thanatology as a subject in LCC/DDC/LCSH/various databases) is mostly ready, though we keep going over time so I need to practice my section to try to cut it down. A few little piddly things (minor paper evaluating a class, Design of Complex Websites assignment and final) remain... then I'm home free. Which means...
  • Preparing for vacation. The apartment is a mess. Our kitchen is truly disturbing. We still have things from Thanksgiving in the fridge and they're probably about ready to develop sentience by now. We need to clean the apartment, pay rent, pay bills, pack up, and oh yes, have some time to actually see each other before we go to our respective homes for the holidays, because I've been sequestered in the bedroom with my computer for the last two weeks (see previous bullet point).
  • Work. Both my library internship (my last day for the semester was yesterday) and my paid work. These have generally been going pretty well. I feel like I'm finally starting to settle in to my internship. My supervisor there has a management style I've not really encountered before and it gave me a little pause at first but I think I'm getting used to it. I'm getting experience in some new things, like planning a program (we're having a mother/daughter tea party in the spring!) and using some new databases. Next semester I'm going to start another project... I need to think about what I want to do! It might be good to get some collection development experience... I've also been thinking about developing a community resource database (thanks to "Information Use in Communities", a course I took this semester). Paid work is pretty much same old, same old -- I spend most of my time doing research on various topics for a digital preservation group at a data repository, and writing up summaries of what I find. It's usually fairly interesting. Right now I'm learning about cloud computing!
  • Job searching. I am beginning this in earnest when vacation starts. Right now I'm setting up some informational interviews. This would be the big anxiety-causer in my life right now... I've been tracking job postings and feeds for a few months now and it doesn't look like there are any entry-level positions in public libraries... everything requires at least two years' experience! I'm hoping that when I begin looking more deeply, this will end up not being an issue. I also need to come up with an overall strategy and write it down, just to settle myself down a bit. I think it will help for me to feel like I've got a solid plan.
  • Snow! SNOW! SNOW SNOW SNOW! I grew up in the Northeast, then spent five years in California for college and one year of grad school. This is my second winter back in a place where seasons actually exist, and the first snowfall of the year (and the second... and the third...) is always so exciting!

Dec 2, 2009

The freedom to read, the freedom to talk, the freedom to think

Yes, I'm still alive. It is finals time, and quite frankly my brain isn't really functioning 100% even with caffeine. I've not posted here for a while because I haven't had the energy to put in the thought required for a quality post.

To be honest, I still don't think I actually have the energy, in general. But I was so impressed and energized by what I've just come across that I found some extra reserves somewhere.

I just read the ALA's Freedom to Read Statement for the first time.


I don't think that many librarians (I wish I could say "any librarians", but there are always a few who don't get it) would argue in favor of censorship. I have always felt that restricting the information that other people can access is deeply wrong, even if the information in question is morally repugnant. But it's been difficult for me to articulate why this is wrong, other than that it just is. The Freedom to Read Statement says, quite eloquently, what I've never quite been able to articulate well enough.

In one of my classes, we did some reading a few weeks ago about the deliberative democracy movement. This movement contends that citizens need to be able to debate issues with each other, considering them as objectively as possible from all sides, in order to come to an understanding of all of the different positions on an issue and, depending on who you talk to, to either make the best possible collective decision about the issue or to have more informed and rational personal opinions (which may still not be in agreement). I think that the thrust of the philosophy behind the Freedom to Read Statement and the deliberative democracy movement are largely the same. If I could sum it up in a sentence, and add a little of my own spin to it, it might go something like this:

Communities (/democracies) derive strength from the consideration of many diverse viewpoints, not from enforcing the availability of a few "acceptable" opinions.

That, to me, is a very powerful idea. It is a shame that so many people do not seem to understand the roots of community strength in this way.

Certainly there is some value to groups of people who do all hold the same opinion. I read an article for another class recently that discussed "bonding" and "bridging" social capital. The former is social capital that arises from ingroup interrelationships, and it serves to bring group members closer together. Shared opinions can foster bonding social capital. Bridging social capital are connections between ingroup members and other groups that create social capital. Both of these kinds of social captial are important. It is important to have an ingroup with which you are bonded, but people, and the ingroups to which they belong, are strengthened by their relationships to other outside groups as well. I think that for these relationships to form, it is important to be able to have open, honest communication about differences of opinion. If a group censors everything it doesn't agree with, it will be hard for that group to connect with others, and the group members will suffer as a result.

(I feel as though this isn't quite a complete post. If there are missing bits, please refer to the above mention of finals having killed my ability to think, and forgive me. (And ask about it in the comments! This whole set of ideas is really interesting to me and I would love to discuss/think about it more.))