Friday, July 18, 2008

Some thoughts after ALA

I met a lot of wonderful people at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim a few weeks ago. I haven't written about my experience yet, because I've been sifting through it in my mind. Attending the conference made me think about why I chose librarianship and what I want to do in the profession. This post is, by no means, a complete account of my thoughts, interests, experiences. Just wanted to get something down.

Intellectual freedom is important to me. I knew this before I attended conference, but now it seems like a crucial issue for me. I am reading ALA's Intellectual Freedom Manual. Privacy, too, is a big issue. I hadn't thought much about it since my intro LIS class, but after attending the OIF presentation/panel discussion about privacy featuring Dan Roth of Wired, Corey Doctorow, Canadian sci fi writer, and Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, I now realize that this is an issue that librarians need to read and talk, and educate users about. Further, as a profession, we need to create systems that are private, but which also allow library users (and only library users) to access their own information. Want to know what book you read last year in July? Well, as a librarian I don't (and shouldn't) have access to that information. But as a patron, you should have access to it.

Attending the ALA conference cemented my desire to work with underserved populations. This may mean that I will need to look for public librarian positions instead of academic, but I'm not totally sure. Working in an urban or rural academic library may offer opportunities to work with the poor and working-class, also. I was annoyed that there weren't many sessions at ALA devoted to underserved populations. I managed to attend a few sessions that discussed these, but most sessions seemed to be about Library 2.0 stuff, gaming, or management/administrative issues, etc. I sometimes feel that technology issues have hijacked the profession. That isn't to say that I am against technology, far from it, but I think we need to be aware of the basic aspects of this profession. When approaching technology, shouldn't we be asking, "how can we use this to help our community?"

I attended a session about library user research that discussed millennials (of course) and then had an amazing researcher out of Texas, Lynn Westbrook, who discussed her research with the information needs and use of victims of intimate partner violence. Good stuff! What I really liked about her research was her comment that these women (primarily women) are suddenly forced to deal with large, often conflicting information systems at a time when they are particularly vulnerable. They need to figure out how to navigate the criminal justice system and the social services network (shelters, etc.) and these systems often give conflicting information. For example, if a woman has been abused by her partner, she is encouraged by the police to file a restraining order. Unfortunately, the shelter system knows that doing so often can lead to more violence. As librarians, how can we reach out to these vulnerable segments of our society? How can we find them, get them to trust us, and help them find and use the resources they need? Why aren't librarians working with social service agencies and organizations?

I also attended a great session--but had to leave early to work my Student-to-Staff gig--about ALA's Policy 61--Library Services to the Poor. I definitely want to work with OLOS, and I think that an outreach librarian position would be a great fit for me. Policy 61 has been around for awhile and yet librarians don't talk about it, much less create policies that support it. Are overdue fines really necessary? I understand that there is rampant theft in libraries, and I'm not naive about people gaming the system (using their kids' cards to check out more stuff that is never returned), but should we really fine people who can't afford to pay? Or who can't afford the transportation costs to get to the library on time to return the items?

So this is what I have been thinking about since ALA. Will post more later, probably.

No comments: