Libraries: the democratization of information
By SUSAN SCOTT
Does a shifting world change the vision of our libraries?
It seems the libraries have always been around, and the truth is that they have, since the collecting of papyrus scrolls in 1200 BC; the written word has endured consistent attempts at organization. Has the vision of libraries changed since the earliest history of collected information? In some ways libraries have always had the same vision of collection, but that vision soon expanded to the provision of independent and uncensored public access to information. Their mission became the democratization of information.
What does your local library have to do with this? It provides that same access and more every day. The Western Sullivan Public Library, for instance, is dedicated to equal access and the pursuit of knowledge through the power of information.
Libraries have become the center of communities, especially in rural areas such as ours. They not only lend materials but provide Internet and wireless access, poetry readings, childrens story hours and more. So has the vision of democratized access changed? In the most basic sense, no; the library still provides to all equally without censorship. It has changed; however, in its willingness to bend with the times. Be it new technological advances or economic decline, the library bends to the needs of the people, because the libraries are theirs.
When I look at any one of the branches of the Western Sullivan Public Library, I am in wonder at how rich we are with books, media, daily papers, pop culture and current events. But rich is not something we think of when we see the economic woes of our small communities affecting so many.
So what happens to our vision as the world changes? For the local libraries it remains the same: to provide. To provide with limited resources the programs, materials and variety of services we always have. It doesnt mean the library can do its job with less; in fact, it is the opposite. Now more than ever libraries are needed and in need. Can libraries provide the things their communities need without financial assistance from our elected officials? The short answer is no. If you benefit from your libraries, tell your elected officials; they need to see our vision through your eyes.
The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out, and after an era new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling mens hearts of the heart of men centuries dead. Clarence Day
[Susan Scott is director of the Western Sullivan Public Library.]