One man's perspective on modern library funding, ideology and mission

No footnotes, no citations, no documentation, purely my at-this-time flow of consciousness thoughts on this topic; how late 1960s' can you get!

Which is appropriate. Library funding received a massive boost via various entitlement programs starting with the Johnson administration, not ending until the Reagan government-is-the-enemy administration. So starting in the mid-1960s libraries started expanding their services, going from the traditional library-as-repository-of-distilled-knowledge-and-culture to the library-as-liberal-stronghold-for-social-change which we all know and love/loath; this was deliberately encouraged as part of the Civil Rights Movement and the related social movements of the 1960s-70s, a deliberate policy of shaping young minds to further social change.

An entire generation of librarians entered the field believing that part of their mission as librarians was to shape society in a liberal image; those who were not comfortable with this tended to find other work, or at least steered clear of library leadership roles, focusing on the traditional nuts and bolts of library work, traditional reference services and tech services, those areas where ideology was mostly irrelevant. But the high profile positions, collection development and administration, attracted those who had Vision.

All well and good when society as a whole agrees with the vision, and funding is practically being forced upon you for these purposes. But what happens when the initial social change being promoted is complete, and a new ideology of limited Federal involvement results in significant reductions in funding?

Reason, in my mind, would indicate that you reassess your activities based on the central mission of libraries. The problem was, and remains, that an entire generation of librarians rose to power who felt/feel that one of the central purposes of libraries is to nurture social change, something which no one espoused prior to the Civil Rights Movement, and which they have taken further than anyone had intended, and they have no understanding of how funding and services interact in a market economy. When funding is cut service must needs change to reflect decreased means. When anti-taxation sentiment is being fanned by demagogues, you must needs market your services carefully to enlist the widest base of support possible, and above all things be practical in any innovative programs, providing reasons why it is a good thing, economically, to provide typewriters or computers or Internet access, and to set up policies of use which adhere to the arguments made when seeking approval for these services.

Internet access for research, job search related activities, writing papers, these are reasonable to propose and will find support. Internet access for social networking, game playing, pornography, not so; these are not reasonable services for a library to provide, and any arguments for them are inevitably going to be found specious because they are not related to the traditional roles of libraries in our societies. Libraries do not have a mandate to provide services without exercising due judgment about the worth of those services.

Libraries do have a responsibility to their funding constituencies that they provide services of the widest possible benefit, and in the most cost effective manner possible. Core services do not include ideological agendas, and libraries must operate within the law.

Libraries are not supposed to undermine a parent's authority. When I was growing up, it was accepted that certain materials were not provided in the Children's Library, and the Children's Library was isolated from the Adult Library. If parent's desired a child to have access to materials held in the Adult Collections, the parent either checked the materials out themselves, or issued instructions that their child be granted access to these materials, and certain materials would not be covered by such a waiver, the parent would have to check them out if they desired their child to access them. In the regular course of affairs, if proper research for assigned coursework required access to materials held in the Adult Collections, the Children's Librarians would retrieve those materials and make them available in the Children's Library. This was felt to be reasonable, and I knew of no one who had any complaints, and trust me, in that time period if anyone would have had complaints it was my family.

The very idea of restricting access to materials in this manner is currently anathema, and can prevent one from being hired, and can adversely effect your tenure if hired; I know this from personal experience. Never mind that until one reaches the age of majority, being 18 years of age, the child only has those rights and privileges granted to them by their parents, who are held accountable for the actions of their minor children. Nowhere has the parent granted the library the status of in loco parentis, the library has no legal standing for allowing minors access to materials restricted to adults, yet libraries all over the country argue for the children's 1st amendment rights, of which there are none; as the parents are held accountable for their children's actions, there can be no rights of the child which undermine the authority required for the parents to be accountable, otherwise the parents are placed in an impossible situation [which given the modern liberal take on things is the case, but that's for another posting...]

Back in the day, when access was circumscribed, exceptions were easy to record and permit; now, where access is open to all, it is impossible for a parent to exercise judgment in restricting access other than being physically at their child's side every second they are in a library, and how to insure the child is never there without them? Prevalent library policy forces responsible parents into the role of being an ogre. Of course, prevalent library policy is to abdicate responsibility in the name of freedom of information, as if the fact that some opinion is held means the library has to make it available, and the irony is that libraries do censor materials, but that their criteria is skewed from mainstream society, demonstrating a decided leftward bent, promoting the personal agendas of staff members instead of truly being factual and impartial.

Um, I've been at this for several hours now, and it's time for lunch, which may be starting to impact my writing.

So before it gets any worse,

Post this Puppy!

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