Monday, April 10, 2017

Our Future in Times of Change: How values guide our understanding of trends and transitions

Figueroa, M. (March/April 2017). Our futures in times of change: How values guide our understanding of trends and transition. American Libraries, 44(3/4), 32-37.

In this article about the future of library services, author Michael Figueroa (director of ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries) seeks to study change, but notes that in order to do so, core values--“confidentiality and privacy, diversity, equitable access, intellectual freedom and expression, preservation”-- must be considered (p. 33).   This article collects interview responses from three librarians, Emily Drabinski (Coordinator of library Instruction at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York), Sarah Houghton (Director of San Rafael Public Library in California), and Charlotte Roh (Scholarly communications librarian at the University of San Francisco Gleeson Library) on the subject of change in light of values.

The interview highlights the importance of the above core values in implementing value-infused services and programs.  Most notably are core values that, in the current political and social climate in the U.S., unflinchingly continue to provide or seek to provide equitable access, sensitivity toward diversity, and policies that guard patron rights to privacy and intellectual freedom.   For example, interviewee Charlotte Roh notes, “Across our communities, people are demanding cultural competency from people traditionally considered experts...As librarians, it is important that our cultural competencies are on par with the depth and breadth of our critical knowledge-seeking behaviors” (p. 35).  

The article includes a subsection on pages 36 and 37 devoted to takeaways for the future.  It’s not a stretch to say that all nine takeaways are relevant to collection development have to do with pushing traditional boundaries to providing equitable, diverse access to patrons. The first is entrepreneurship--libraries can offer a “network of support” to aid patrons who lack access to minority, low-income patrons.  Second, libraries are poised to offer programs that boost civic engagement and innovation, whether in the form of microcollections, maker spaces, or meeting places to spark communication.  Thirdly, school libraries even now are pushing communication boundaries to connect with innovators, experts and other students to promote a positive global awareness, whether in hosting authors, or Skype conferencing, or using social media platforms to make connections.  The fourth takeaway is sustainability--as we take measures to provide our patrons with access to various informational formats, we must make sure that they are “environmentally sound, economically feasible, and socially equitable”.  The fifth is expanding horizons through virtual reality--using VR as “place-based learning that moves beyond the traditional field trip”.  Sixth is accessibility, which for most of us is a pretty obvious concern, but one that, nevertheless, must be a focus for the future of libraries.  The seventh takeaway is providing welcoming communities that builds unity for all Americans, no matter their background.  Eighth and ninth are geared toward young learners--it is vital that librarians in schools and youth public librarians are invested in technology trends AND understand and practice 21st century ethics (often relatable to current technology).  Speaking as a teacher librarian currently employed in a public high school, I thoroughly agree that students who are educated about online rights and privacies are well-equipped to handle the myriad ins and outs of life in a tech-focused society.

My greatest take away from the article is the importance of staying informed about information--keeping my eye on the services we offer to make sure that they are sustainable.  In continually evaluating patron needs and matching them with resources, I can make sure that the programs and services embrace ALA values.

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