One extremely important thing I’ve learned since starting to teach Public Libraries at Catholic University is that there is nothing new in public libraries. Everything we do now, every controversy, every success, and every scandal has happened before sometime in this nation’s history. And while the internet is new, fear of change is not. In the 1920s, the increased popularity of the radio caused some librarians to be concerned that it would “wean people away from the written word”. Do you hear the echo to the past that I hear?
I find this connection to the past very comforting. I am part of a long and strong tradition of librarians–flaws and all. Even down to this quote:
“It is the more intangible question of influence on the community and value to the individual. The library supplants the schools, extends their service through life, and takes their place. It serves as a center of recreation and inspiration, a storehouse of mental treasure available for the varied needs of our citizens. In arousing worthy interests and ambitions, satisfying mental longings, bringing practical advice, information, cheer and comfort to the average citizen, the library proves it’s value and worth.”
–Bangor (Maine) Public Library Director, 1927
(as always, thanks to the magnificent book Part of our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library by Wayne Wiegand)