When I first thought of this particular blog thread — driving home on Wednesday from work, my government information librarian brain still snapping and sparking from the electoral charge of Tuesday’s events — it felt as if I rediscovered some long lost sensibility.
For so long, at least since the late 1990s, my research and public service seemed burdened with such struggle and cynicism when talked to students and faculty about government information sources. I had to temper my remarks with observations that understanding the import and impact of government information was never going to be easy; they would have to wade through a ocean of muck, obscurity, and partisanship.
The partisanship drumbeats (from both major political parties) of “government is not the solution, it is the problem”, quite frankly took the joy out of the whole civic engagement story.
So, for my second koan I suggest we ride this wave of civic renewal and put our libraries back into the center when people want to wrestle with the social, economic, and political issues of the day. Lets not wear the mantle of disengagement out some percieved notion we would no longer be neutral. We should argue on behalf of civic engagement and debate in our buildings as passionately as we defend the right to shelve all those books other people want to ban or keep out of the hands of those they perceive to need protection.
What better mechanism to reconnect with our communities than through a spirited discussion of what our future governments might promise in the coming months. The bitter political partisanship over the last forty years (sparked, I think after the 1966 congressional elections if I read the history rightly) drained the civic ecosystem of any sense of good will or trust. As a valued institution, I think libraries can begin to restore that trust and engagement.
There you are, a new slogan for an old value — libraries the original social software….
See you at the forum for tomorrow’s thought of day.
And James, thanks for the connective tissue among the different blog posts trying to weave these many threads into a more complete picture.
74 days and counting.