Monday, May 14, 2007

The State of American Libraries 2007, yea, yea

I did not see much in the library sector of the blogosphere in terms of comments or remarks about the 2007 State of American Libraries report put out by ALA; maybe it should be the state of ALA and what they did/did not do for libraries, but that is another story. It just seems a bit too self-congratulatory at times. Jessamyn provides a nice summary and set of highlights. If you read that, you can save yourself from reading the 19 pages or so. Anyways, I was not terribly impressed. Still, a couple of things did catch my eye.

On public libraries and the vital Internet access they provide.

"The FSU study also indicates that more people are relying on library computers to find government services that are becoming less available locally and more available on line. In Florida, for example, regional offices where families can apply for food stamps have been phased out, so people must use the Internet to complete the application. Local libraries usually provide the needed Internet access, plus instruction in computer skills and completing forms."

The fact of the matter is that a library may provide the computer access, but it does not follow the librarians are qualified or trained to help people actually fill the various forms for things like food stamps. Just to go local, here, we got rid of the tax forms. We print them out on request and show people how to get to the site. However, the example I have in mind is at admissions time filling out the Texas Common College Application. Admissions usually sends them to the library, since we have computers, to fill out the form, but certainly without the students knowing the librarians can't help them with the form. That is my point. The government assumes putting the form online means the people can do it all on their own. No one is there to answer their specific questions, and librarians, helpful people that they can be, are not necessarily qualified as social workers, advisers, etc.

I agree with Jessamyn that the report says way too little about academic libraries as well as public expanding use of virtual services. I fall under the skeptic category, so this report certainly does not do anything to convince me to think something other than a lot of the stuff is the flavor of the month. You need some specific examples of how libraries are making use of the technologies, and there are plenty of examples out there. Just go ask the 2.0 experts. Get some numbers too while you are it.

On the school media centers being shut down in order to use the remaining funds for the NCLB requirements, that falls under my theory of how we are ruining a generation. Basically, teaching kids to perform on a standardized, mostly multiple choice exam is not the way to teach kids the critical thinking skills and literacy concepts they will need later in life. The school library is crucial to a well-rounded education, and yet schools and their communities pretty much ax them without much further thought. I get the feeling we are going to be paying for that short sightedness down the road.

There is mention of the shortage of librarians. I am staying away from that one since I am one of those who thinks it is mostly a myth, and it has been hashed in other places much better than I could say now.

Librarian salaries rising? I wonder where they checked. My salary sure as hell has not gone up. Neither has the salary of my colleagues here or those I have met in conferences. Then again, you do have to pay to see the ALA-APA Salary Survey to confirm anything. Here, we did cough up some dough for the non-MLS Survey. Our "big sister" campus does have the librarian one, but holdings are not complete. Oh well.

As for how ALA is doing, I am not even going over Ms. Burger's platitudes list of her vision. "All libraries should have the funding they need." Really? I better stop here while I am still ahead. Remember what mama used to say, if you can't say anything nice. . . .

And we still have our work cut out for us in terms of educating people about social networks. That we have a bunch of hysteria mongers trying to legislate something they don't understand is simply disgraceful. Then again, in my case, I always wonder after a while about the people who keep electing the same ignorant and ill-informed people to the legislatures every time and then complain when those ignorant and ill-informed legislators do less than intelligent things like DOPA. Glad ALA stood up for it, but we clearly, as a profession, should be doing more to educate others.

So, go read the report, or read Jessamyn's highlights and save yourself the time.

Update note (5/15/2007): Woody Evans has posted on the topic as well. I left a comment there, but I quit while ahead as they say before it became a post. There are days when I just have to wonder about our profession.

No comments: