4 Responses to we need more helens

  1. Jacqueline, I appreciate how you have highlighted the need for the development of a new skill set for librarians while at the same time remembering our past. It can be too easy to slip into a false dualism of old librarianship vs new librarianship, physical formats vs digital, or worse, older generations vs younger ones. I think the best way to overcome this dualism is to move beyond focusing on the outputs of libraries (circ stats, program attendance, volume counts, number of downloads, etc.) and hone in on our desired outcomes (literate citizens, connected/engaged communities, learning, strengthened participation and democracy). There is nothing new about these outcomes, and they have long served as the guideposts for librarians. Let’s talk more about those outcomes. Let’s measure how effective we’re being in achieving those outcomes, and let’s make some informed decisions about what kinds of outputs we should be putting resources behind, and what kinds of skills are required to build the libraries our communities need. And let’s find ways to do it together, rather than in isolation. Kicking off this discussion in your blog is an important first step in remembering our past, better understanding the present, and keeping any eye on the future.

  2. Dave Obee says:

    I always appreciate a reference to Helen Gordon Stewart, who was a true revolutionary in British Columbia library circles. She served as the head librarian in Victoria in the 1910s, bringing in the Dewey Decimal System, a children’s room, staff training, and more. She helped form the B.C. Library Association and the Public Library Commission. She started the Fraser Valley regional system and set the stage for the regional libraries in the Okanagan Valley and on Vancouver Island. Above all, she was a fearless, tireless advocate of library service, recognizing how important it was for everyone to have access to information. Yes, we need more Helens.

    • Thanks for commenting, Dave. Having written The Library Book, you of all people know about Helen’s work! There’s a fair bit of Helen in you, in fact, in your fearless tireless advocacy of libraries – thank you for all that you do for libraries, Dave.

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