Librarians in a World of Austerity: What is Our Role?

Let’s be honest… things are starting to look pretty bleak out there.  Not to sound like a pessimist, but just to review a few historical facts since 2008:

  • Curent unemployment rate in the US % 9.1, Canada 7.2%, England 7.6% (this does not include underemployment – which is reflected below in US Department of Labor stats)

  • Global inequality is on the rise (and Canadians are beginning to outpace Americans!)
  • Austerity is kicking in across Europe and may be coming to a community near you soon.

And in response to the last fact, I recently read a newspaper article based out rural Manitoba (where I grew up) which literally scared the cr@p out of me.  Why you may ask yourself?  Well feel free to give it a read.  Although this is just a letter to the editor, this should really send off some alarm bells.  There are people who are raising similar justifications for the current economic conditions in the United States, England, and I would presume – we will soon be hearing voices like this attacking the diverse people of Canada.

I think of youth in my home town who may read a piece of information like this and the impact the information can have on their belief system.  I remember how much of a sponge I was as a youth, and without someone else providing alternative narratives through other sources of information, this could have formed the ‘truths’ for myself and many other youth as they develop into adulthood.

As providers of information how should librarians [yes both those socially conscious and other librarians] respond?

So librarians, are we non-biased providers of information?  Do we passively respond by providing the general public with access to ‘well balanced’ information sources?

Are we agents of social change?  Are there certain social truths and absolutes which librarians are willing to take a stand for?

I personally think that avoiding issues and not taking a stance (complicit as it is) is also a stance.
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Whatever the possibilities of freedom we may have, they cannot be realized if we continue to assume that the ‘OKAY WORLD’ of reality is the only world there is. Society provides us with warm, reasonably comfortable caves, in which we can huddle with our fellows, beating on the drums that drown out the howling hyenas of the surrounding darkness. ‘ECTASY’ is the act of stepping outside the caves, alone, to face the night” Peter Berger (149-150)

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1 Comment

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One response to “Librarians in a World of Austerity: What is Our Role?

  1. Pingback: Libraries and the riots | Social Justice Librarian

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