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Betsy Wilson - Libraries for a saner and more secure world

New Directions is a big topic and invites us to look beyond the daily mysteries of moving projects forward and paying for stuff.

Betsy's talk ranged from how we might recreate local spaces, to how we might collaborate on a global scale. I guess the idea that caught my attention most deeply was her wish to collaborate in order to support (foster? create?) an information-smart global community -- what she believes is the prerequisite for creating a saner and more secure world.

I too would like to create a saner and more secure world. I was reassured, relieved, and inspired to hear her say that libraries can make a difference. I propose that perhaps we not only can make a difference, but that we want to make a difference. That doing so would make our daily lives more meaningful, and would make our everyday small actions significant when seen inside this larger context.

Betsy commented that libraries have in the past, and continue in the present, to engender a culture based on a "circle of gifts". Her first example was Interlibrary Lending. This goes back to the beginning days of intellectual institutions who loaned manuscripts, and in so doing shared ideas and sparked further progress in human thought and culture and our ability to improve our material and non-material lives. Research libraries are particularly well placed in this circle, since it was scholars who started this free exchange of information, and scholars who want to continue to do so. Libraries and faculty can build on this shared value system based on free exchange.

Betsy intimated what might be the basic elements of a global library. Here are just a few points I brought away:

  • No single library is a global library. Libraries (all sorts of libraries, in all sorts of places) need to work together to create a ...something (network/ web/ starcluster/ fuzzy) ... then figure how each local library contributes. This requires a lot of joint dreaming and talk; commitment and trust.
  • Local research communities - Berkeley in our case - benefit. In order to do their work, our campus researchers need their research partners throughout the world to have timely, relevant, findable, and affordable access to the same information we can access.
  • Building a global library will take more than libraries. We'll need technological infrastructures; changes in publishing structures and in limited licensing agreements; laws that foster global access to intellectual property.
  • Library staff will [continue to] need new and changing skill sets.

Above all, I think, building a circle of libraries to share a circle of gifts, will require generosity of spirit, optimism, energy, trust, and just plain grit.

Oct 19, 2007 | Categories: The global library | gford

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