|Academic libraries are facing pressures in the 21st
century that didn’t exist for most of the 20th. The Internet
and electronic publishing, coupled with the UCITA-like appetites
of the information industry threaten the nation’s academic libraries
in several interrelated ways.
There are the administrators and funding bodies that love the idea of virtual, as opposed to physical, libraries. We must make the case for the continuing need for bricks and books while acknowledging the extraordinary and complementary value of the electronic information.
The Internet is not a panacea. It is rife with self- and other-published "information" that is inaccurate, out-dated, or otherwise of little or questionable worth. We must make the case to those whose belief in the Internet is quasi-religious that the academic librarian is the mediator who will organize and evaluate that inchoate mess and render it coherent to the academy’s community of users through such vehicles as bibliographic instruction, frontline day-in-day-out reference service, and a host of other means.
The information industry, commercial data owners, and now our former friend, the American Association of Publishers—according to Pat Schroeder, AAP’s President, librarians are "the enemy"—want to eradicate the whole notion of fair use as well as other aspects of copyright law through UCITA legislation, shrink-wrap licensing, and excessively restrictive contracts for database usage. These attempts to unreasonably restrict access to electronic information are a threat to the future of libraries. Interlibrary loan, fair use photocopying, etc. could all become prohibited activities.
All of these challenges must be faced proactively and vigorously opposed. As your ALA President I will work closely with ACRL and others to fight for the continued fair use of databases and software and against excessive limitations on use in licensing agreements. NO to UCITA!
What are the fundamental values that you would emphasize as ALA President and what would be your top priorities?
I will use the power of the ALA presidency to fight for these values and priorities:
As President of ALA you will be called upon to speak for librarians on a variety of issues. How do you propose to seek input from the various ALA divisions and to weigh that input to represent effectively and accurately the views of librarians to the general public, the press, and local, state, or national governmental entities?
I will create an advisory council that will include a representative from each division to counsel me on policy matters. I will work closely with ACRL and others to provide presidential support and leadership on those issues especially important to them. The ALA President has the opportunity to speak for the Association and to help each of the divisions with their respective missions. I will be visible and outspoken on behalf of libraries with the general public, all of the media, and government entities at all levels. The ALA President has to be out front but with the support of the membership and the divisions.
In our environment of rapid change, what are your views on the future of librarianship and future roles libraries will play in society? What should ALA be doing differently that would have an impact on the perception of the role of librarians in society? How would you as ALA President lead the Association in continuing to attract highly capable individuals to the profession?
Librarians will continue to have a very proactive role, especially as society is increasingly reliant on technologically-driven forms of information access.
We will continue to have the same vital role in the selection, organization, evaluation, and delivery of high-quality information; in the design of access systems; and in the design of instructional and information literacy services—the latter is especially important.
Libraries and librarians will have a crucial role in bridging the digital divide; this will be as true for community college learning resource centers as it is for the major research institutions, and the libraries in-between.
They will be critically important in developing new forms of partnerships and collaboration across types of libraries, types of campus units (e.g., IT, faculty, museums), and community/corporate organizations.
As higher education changes with distance and online instruction, librarians will play critical roles as partners in developing customized resources and services for this new environment; we will be consulting directly with faculty and students, and beyond the traditional walls.
Librarians will continue to play a vital role in the preservation of cultural heritage (e.g. preservation, special collections, etc.) The new challenge will be the preservation of the electronically based information that has been shaping policy and culture.
What is your position on members participating virtually as committee members or in other roles in ALA and its divisions?
Librarians must take advantage of all of the media available to them. Conference calls, e-mail, chat—these various means of communication are essential. It is grand that members can participate virtually as either observers or participants in the various ALA listservs. Committee work is enhanced by e-mail and chat.
My only concern and reservation is that mechanisms be in place to ensure that the spirit of the open meeting policy of ALA is not violated.
E-mail and chat also are marvelous ways to give new librarians access to what is going on in the Association and an opportunity to participate in areas of interest to them.
Do you believe that ALA is effectively organized to meet its goals and the aspirations of its members? If not, how do you think it should be organized?
ALA probably could be organized better… what couldn’t? But the substantial diversity of interests militates against centrality, and probably efficiency, too. The divisions and roundtables have wonderful and important roles to play in promoting the areas of librarianship of concern to them. The President must speak for the Association, but ALA’s units shouldn’t be constrained unduly from pursuing their respective interests.
I will spend my time as ALA President fighting for those issues and priorities I have identified. I will tend not to devote precious advocacy time and energy on ‘fixing’ or better organizing the ALA structure.
One of the most crucial roles for ALA is to promote the importance of libraries and to increase the awareness that there are many types of libraries serving different audiences and needs. How would you as the ALA President use the "@your library campaign" and other opportunities to promote libraries?
I would use all of ALA’s communication facilities and intensively pursue all of the opportunities available to promote the nation’s libraries. The strength of America’s information resources is in the sum and diversity of its libraries and their collections. Appearances on television and radio on behalf of the "@your library" campaign will be critical. Print coverage will be essential too.
I have been the host of a TV information talk show for over a decade. Through the success of the show and the attendant recognition in the community, I know first-hand how important television coverage is in promoting libraries.
The message must be simple and repeated consistently and clearly. Libraries are a public good. They benefit everyone, not just the people who use them.
I will advocate for libraries and persuade each audience exactly what it is about libraries that will benefit the community, enrich their lives, help them with their jobs, and enhance their pursuit of happiness.
The library is a great institution. I believe in it. I will promote America’s libraries and America’s librarians.
For more information about my views; the full-text of many of the dozens of papers I have written; and my years with LC, the world’s largest research library, as Assistant Head of the African-Asian Exchange Section and as part of the management of the Processing Department and its 1500 person staff, complex operations, and offices all over the world, see my web site, http://www.mitch4pres.org/.
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